Support for Apprentices 

Passed at National Conference 2021

The problem 

Renationalising Apprenticeship Provision - Over 70% of apprenticeships are delivered by private training providers. These providers not covered by the education act (1994), no requirement for learner representation, do not fall under the scope of college insolvency protection and are not required to have learner or staff representation on their boards. Alongside chronic and endemic underpayment of apprentices the most pressing issue facing apprentices across the UK is the quality of their education. Governments across the UK have attempted to address this but we have seen no significant shift in the number of apprentices receiving the training that they are entitled to; that education that providers are paid for and that entitles employers to pay apprentices a reduced rate.  Apprenticeships have developed two competing models of training. Those professions that maintained historic apprenticeship provision, construction, engineering and hair dressing continue to deliver their training predominantly through day or block release. Employers understanding that to develop new skills and understanding the apprentice needs to take time away from the workplace.

Employers and industries that have adopted apprenticeships more recently, Early Years, Retail and Business administration, have developed a different model. The Assessor visitor model ensures that an apprentice is in the workplace full time and must arrange their off the job learning around their duties at work. Rather than learning with other apprentices their training is delivered through online blended learning. An assessor will then visit the apprentice in their workplace once every 4-12 weeks. It is disgraceful that online learning in schools, colleges and universities is a national priority to be ended as soon as possible, but remains the norm for most apprentices.  The day release model also allows apprentices to engage with other apprentices, compare experiences and access support services available within an FE college. Despite a decade of cuts FE colleges still provide access to childcare, student support, mental health support and sex and relationships education. In the 2019 election we also saw FE colleges support voter registration drives ensuring young people were not disenfranchised.  Whilst we do not take the view that this cannot be considered off the job learning the risks that either:

  • Employers do not provide time for apprentices to learn or
  •  Apprentices are simply accredited for skills they already have Are far greater in the assessor visitor model.  

The apprenticeship pay survey show that less than half of apprentices were receiving their off the job training.  At the moment the guidance allows for a very broad definition of what constitutes off the job training. We propose that this guidance be changed as follows:

  • Day or block release as the standard delivery model
  • Any other model to demonstrate that it delivers the same access to support and peer learning environment to be considered eligible for funding.
  • Reduce the emphasis on flexibility for employers to focus on delivering quality to apprentices and value for money to the funder.

Who benefits?  As we see from the Apprenticeship pay survey the apprenticeships that are least likely to be delivering the legal minimum requirement of off the job training are those apprenticeships that are predominantly done by women. It cannot be right that we have an apprenticeship system that ensures high quality training and education through day release for young men, in engineering and construction, and another in social care and retail where an apprenticeship simply means low paid work with no education or training.

Finding the Funding - This change would incur no additional funding year on year. These apprenticeships are already receiving funding but apprentices aren’t receiving their education.  We believe that this change would significantly improve the educational experience of apprentices. It would also allow apprentices to meet from other apprentices and enjoy access to services most efficiently provided centrally. It would shift the focus of our apprenticeship programme from “what employers and providers can get away with” to a skills system fit for purpose.

Proposed Solutions

  • Day release or block release to be the norm for under 25’s
  • Every apprentice to be paid at least the Living Wage
  • Accessible funded mental health support for all apprentices
  • Apprenticeship funding to cover the cost of tools and equipment essential to an apprenticeship