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Apprenticeships Series: Let's start at the beginning...

18 December, 2017Karen Taylor

apprenticeLet’s start at the beginning… A brief background to the current apprenticeships reform.

Barely a day passes at the moment without apprenticeships appearing in the news.  Without doubt, ‘apprenticeships’ is certainly something of a buzzword at the moment, high up on the agenda of employers and educators alike and constantly under the media spotlight! 

But why all this interest?  In our new apprenticeships blog series, we will bring you the latest goings-on in the world of apprenticeships, look in more detail at the issues and discussions taking place, particularly within the financial services arena, and, above all, we’ll attempt to debunk some of the many myths, confusions and misconceptions surrounding apprenticeships.

So, in our first blog, where better place to kick off than at the very beginning!  The current apprenticeship reform started back in November 2012 when Doug Richard published his independent report on the future of apprenticeships, calling on the UK Government to improve the quality of apprenticeships and make them more focused on the needs of employers.  Fast-forward to the end of 2015 when the Government released its ‘2020 Vision’, committing to increasing the quantity and, most importantly, the quality of apprenticeships, reaching 3 million apprenticeship starts by the year 2020.  So far so good, but how will this, arguably, ambitious target be achieved? 

Long live apprenticeship standards! 

The old system of apprenticeship frameworks has been replaced by employer-led standards.  Putting employers at the heart of apprenticeships is central to all the reforms taking place, with so-called ‘Trailblazer' groups of employers collaborating to design new standards within their sectors.  Let’s face it, who are in a better position to judge the quality and relevance of apprenticeship training than the employers themselves?

apprentice2Leading the charge

In April 2017, the Institute for Apprenticeships was launched.  The Institute is an executive, non-departmental and, crucially again, employer-led public body, sponsored by the Department for Education.  Its primary remit is to ensure that employers drive apprenticeship quality to the highest level. 

Quality, quality, quality

In November, following sector consultation, the Institute for Apprenticeships published a quality statement and strategy entitled, ‘What is a quality apprenticeship?’  Key to attaining a quality apprenticeship is ensuring that training meets industry standards and is undertaken by organisations that have met the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s stringent application process, underpinned by a rigorous and independent assessment system

The levy has arrived

Last but by no means least is the apprenticeship levy, which is perhaps the most significant, challenging and, at times, controversial change to impact on the new apprenticeships landscape. 

After two years of waiting, the levy came into effect in April 2017 and is a tax on UK employers that is intended to support the funding of apprenticeships.  In essence, all organisations with an annual wage bill of over £3m now pay a levy of 0.5 per cent.  Employers can then use this fund, to which the Government adds an extra 10 per cent in England, to spend on apprenticeship training.  Lots more on the levy in later blogs!

The new apprenticeship system now means that apprentices can be of any age, at any level of education and at any stage in their career.  So, whether you are leaving school, graduating from university or are an established industry professional, the apprenticeship ‘door’ could be open to you.  The potential opportunities are immense and, for those of us involved with apprenticeships, it really is an exciting time.

Karen Taylor is the Head of Apprenticeships at The London Institute of Banking & Finance. To find out more about apprenticeships, visit our dedicated page