English Apprenticeships: Our 2020 Vision

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English apprenticeships: Our 2020 vision sets out the government's plan for raising productivity and training a highly skilled workforce through an increase in the quality and quantity of apprenticeships in England. Its aim is to reach 3 million starts by the end of the current parliament.

The document sets out evidence that apprenticeships translate into significant monetary returns for individuals, while at the same time delivering important benefits to employers. Through the government's apprenticeship reform programme, the aim is to improve these benefits further still by promoting:

  • greater employer ownership
  • enhanced attainment in English and maths
  • better careers guidance
  • well-equipped training providers. 
It's hoped that increasing the quality and quantity of apprenticeships will help to address skills shortages in the workforce that cause the productivity of the UK to lag behind other G7 countries.

The introduction of an apprenticeship levy, is a key component of government's plan to grow apprenticeships and put investment in training, which has been in rapid decline over the last 20 years, on a long-term sustainable footing. Government also believes that there is significant scope for growing apprenticeships among certain types of employers and the Enterprise Bill includes measures to increase the number of apprenticeships in the public sector; this obviously has implications for the NHS.

Improving the quality of apprenticeships

The 2012 Richard review of apprenticeships set out a clear vision for a system that was more rigorous and responsive to employers' needs and in 2013, after accepting the recommendations made in the review, the government published its plans to launch employer-led trailblazers. Having employers set out the structure for reformed apprenticeships at the outset was deemed central to driving up quality and making the system easier to engage with - you can read more about the the new approach to apprenticeship design on our apprenticeship reform web page.

In a further move to drive up quality, government plans to legislate to protect the term apprenticeship from misuse by education and training providers. In addition, the government publishes a list of the top 100 apprenticeship employers, similar to the top 100 graduate employers list, to highlight the employers that are most well-regarded by apprentices. The list of best employers for 2017 is available on the government website. The development of higher and degree apprenticeships is another component of government's strategy to drive up productivity. However, there is recognition that more needs to be done to develop apprenticeships at this level, so that they become a prestigious path to successful careers.

The government recognises that the active support of professional bodies and other partners is essential, so that apprenticeships are recognised as quality preparation to operate in that sector. This is especially important in the NHS, as employers begin to consider how apprenticeships could potentially be applied to members of the registered workforce and it is necessary that the apprenticeship standards designed map across to the standards set by professional bodies. 

Support for employers

The apprenticeship service is an online portal that allows employers to choose and pay for the apprenticeship training and assessment they require. The service also supports employers to choose an apprenticeship training course, find a candidate and choose a training provider. You can find out more about how to register for the apprenticeship service on the government website.

The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) intends to offer a dedicated account management service to all large employers that want to expand their apprenticeship programmes. In addition, work will continue through the Apprenticeship Ambassador Network to promote apprenticeships and expand the delivery of higher and degree apprenticeships.

A role for the public sector

Through the Enterprise Bill, the government intends to introduce statutory targets for apprenticeship starts in public sector bodies. The details of this proposal are currently being consulted on but following this period, and parliamentary approval, the targets will be put in place in the autumn of 2016. In terms of the NHS, as part of the Talent for Care strategic framework, commitment has been given to delivering over 17,000 apprenticeship starts during 2015/16, reaching more than 100,000 by 2020. To help achieve this, the government will be working with trusts to expand the number of occupations across the NHS where apprenticeships can be offered.

Routes into apprenticeships and work

To support young people's progression to apprenticeships, the employer-led Careers and Enterprise Company is taking a lead role in strengthening links between schools and colleges, employers, and careers and enterprise organisations. Jobcentre Plus (JCP) has also launched an initiative to work with schools to raise awareness of local employment opportunities including apprenticeships. To ensure apprenticeships are promoted to local jobseekers, from spring 2016 the government will deliver improved guidance to JCP work coaches and employer advisers, so they are fully aware of the opportunities available. JCP also offers a wealth of support to employer organisations, find out more on our JCP web page.

It is planned that the use of traineeships will also provide work preparation support for those who wish to progress to apprenticeships but lack the basic skills and experience that employers are looking for, including people with learning disabilities or difficulties (LDD). To find out more about how traineeships can help you to harness young talent read our handy guide. Please read our web page about the benefits of recruiting disabled apprentices/apprentices with LDD to find out more.

Since degree apprenticeships are a growing part of the apprenticeships offer, it is important that young people are able to access guidance on these in the same way they do for the rest of the higher education offer. To facilitate this, the Skills Funding Agency is working with UCAS to provide information and guidance about higher and degree apprenticeships and enable people to apply for them. To support this, the government is encouraging employers to advertise these apprenticeship vacancies in advance, so young people can plan ahead as they would for university.

The government also remains committed to making apprenticeships accessible to people of all backgrounds and particularly want to address any barriers faced by groups including women, care leavers, people from black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds and disabled people or those with learning difficulties or disabilities. You can find out more about recruiting people from different backgrounds on our recruiting from your community webpages.

Building the long-term apprenticeship system

The government recognises that to deliver a genuinely world-class apprenticeship programme, long-term governance arrangements are required to support employers to uphold the high quality of apprenticeship standards. As a result a new independent body, the Institute for Apprenticeships, will be established to regulate the the quality of apprenticeships and set caps on the level of funding available for individual standards. Building on the current trailblazer process, the Institute for Apprenticeships will put in place transparent mechanisms for the approval of apprenticeship standards and assessment plans, and maintain clear quality criteria so that only standards that are valued by employers will be approved and funded. The Institute will use data on the take-up of apprenticeships by employers and the wage returns to apprentices to review the effectiveness and quality of standards over time.

It is fundamental to government's apprenticeship reforms that employers have the freedom to choose who delivers their training and end-point assessment services.  As such, employers will continue to be free to select which training provider and assessment organisations they wish to use from the Skills Funding Agency registers. Government also recognise the important contribution of employers who provide apprenticeship training directly and want to ensure this continues.

Further information

You can download the full version of English apprenticeships: Our 2020 vision from the GOV.UK website, where you will also find a link to an executive summary.

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