By Daniel Hunter

Improved apprenticeships, which will bring greater focus on quality for the learner and ease of use for employers, were unveiled by the Prime Minister at MINI Plant Oxford yesterday (Monday).

Under the reforms, employers will be put in the driving seat to create new Apprenticeship standards that will deliver the skills businesses and learners need to compete in the global race.

Groups of companies, including BMW Group UK, have come together to give industry the power to lead the design of these new Apprenticeships. More than 60 companies who took on more than 13,000 Apprenticeship starts in 2011/12 are involved in these groups, which are known as Trailblazers.

The reformed Apprenticeships will be:

- Employer-led and designed so they respond to the needs of industry, meaning each apprentice has the skills required by the sector;
- Focused on quality so the apprentice has to demonstrate their ability through rigorous assessment at the end of their Apprenticeship;
- Graded on completion - pass, merit, or distinction - to mark the level of achievement.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "If you want an apprenticeship, we're going to make sure you do the best apprenticeship in the world. The reforms we're announcing today will put employers in the driving seat and ensure that we deliver rigorous training that supports you and our economy for years to come."

Eight Trailblazers will represent a broad spectrum of businesses from a range of different sectors; aerospace, automotive, digital industries, electro-technical, energy, financial services, food and drink, and life and industrial sciences. Their participation will mean that apprenticeships are firmly driven by those who deliver and use them.

Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock said: "We asked Doug Richard to review the Apprenticeship system and tell us what was needed to make the British system a world leader. Our reforms will do just that and I am pleased to welcome industry leaders as Trailblazers to make the new system a reality.

"Our aim is that the new Apprenticeships will focus squarely on rigorous training for learners and simplicity of use for employers. This will mean that our Apprenticeship system will respond to the needs of the modern economy."

Being involved in the Trailblazers will give employers and professional bodies the opportunity to develop the new Apprenticeship standards for occupations in their sector. These will become the industry standard for any Apprenticeship in that occupation.

New apprentices can expect to take part in reformed Apprenticeships as early as the end of 2014.

Dr Frank Bachmann, managing director of MINI Plant Oxford said: "As a major employer of apprentices, BMW Group is supporting this important skills initiative which is designed to develop the first apprenticeship standards across many industrial sectors including automotive. We're delighted to host and help launch this new Government programme."

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