MORE employer ownership of apprenticeship frameworks can only ensure apprentices are gaining the skills employers need, says industry’s specialist awarding organisation EAL.

“Apprenticeships are central to the economic recovery of the UK, as they are essential for reducing unemployment and meeting skills gaps in vital industries such as engineering and manufacturing,” EAL’s Managing Director Julia Chippendale said in the wake of government’s new Apprenticeships Implementation Plan.

The plan, launched by Prime Minister David Cameron and Skills Minister Matthew Hancock in Oxford on Monday, October 28th, outlines key policy changes following the Richard Review of Apprenticeships. These include:

  • designing apprenticeships based on standards outlined by employers, replacing current frameworks by 2017/18
  • giving employers a key role in developing rigorous independent assessment
  • the launch of eight “Trailblazer Projects” to lead the first phase of the changing apprenticeship standards – covering EAL sectors such as aerospace, automotive, electrotechnical, energy and utilities, food and drink manufacturing, as well as others such as digital industries, life sciences and industrial sciences.
  • grading for apprenticeship completions, as either pass, merit or distinction
  • a minimum apprenticeship length of one year without exception
  • a minimum of at least 20% “off-the-job” training
  • the requirement of apprentices to gain greater levels of English and maths
  • the launch of a National Apprenticeship Council – inspired by the pioneering EAL Industry Apprentice Council (IAC).

Julia said: “EAL works very closely with employers already, to ensure our qualifications meet their needs and the needs of their learners, so we are pleased to see more control over standards being handed to them. We are particularly keen to see SMEs more involved in this process, so they can recruit high-calibre apprentices alongside larger employers.

“However, it is worth remembering the colleges and training providers who also work hand-in-hand with employers to provide qualifications, ensuring rigorous independent assessment is in place and the new requirement of at least 20% off-the-job training is met.

“In working with employers more closely, hopefully this will bring more rigour to the apprenticeship system and more diversity into the way apprentices are tested.

“Through our own apprentice engagement initiative, the Industry Apprentice Council, we know apprentices have concerns over placing too much emphasis on end of point assessment. Apprentices should be assessed throughout their training and competencies checked as they progress.”

In July this year the IAC – a group of industry apprentices from across the UK – met with BIS to discuss government’s response to the Richard Review of Apprenticeships, following a personal invitation from the Skills Minister.  

At the meeting, the IAC outlined their vision for continuous assessment throughout an apprenticeship, as opposed to an end of point assessment, as well as a grading scale for apprenticeship completions comparable to that used in higher education.

IAC member Natalie Harris, 19, an apprentice at Caunton Engineering in Nottingham, was part of a panel discussion with the Skills Minister at the implementation plan launch event in Oxford.

She said: “I am pleased to see government taking on board the IAC’s ideas and recommendations on how apprenticeships can be improved in future. I am also glad the IAC has inspired government to place greater emphasis on giving apprentices a national voice, through a National Apprenticeship Council – something the IAC has done for the last year.  Our experiences will hopefully prove useful in ensuring apprentices are central to the development of apprenticeships and we hope to continue our work as part of the IAC.”

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