This month, the government published their vision for Apprenticeships over the next five years. The document confirms much of what we already knew about the Apprenticeship reforms, but provides much needed detail and timescales. Here’s a quick summary of the headlines:
Frameworks to Standards
New employer-designed Standards will replace current Frameworks and a new end-point assessment regime will be introduced (find out more here). Although the document doesn’t specify the actual date when Frameworks will be switched off and Standards take over, it is clear that, in funding terms, the system is gearing up for a significant transition in April 2017. Guidance on funding both Frameworks and Standards for the 2016/17 academic year will be issued at the end of January 2016 – suggesting there will be a dual-running of the system up until at least 2017/18.
The government have held a spotlight on the quality of Apprenticeships for several years now. The document defines the ‘core principles’ of Apprenticeship quality as the following:
- It is a job in a skilled occupation;
- It requires substantial and sustained training, lasting a minimum of 12 months and involving at least 20% off-the-job training;
- It develops transferable skills, and English and maths, to progress careers;
- It leads to full competency and capability in an occupation, demonstrated by the achievement of an apprenticeship standard;
- It trains the apprentice to the level required to apply for professional recognition where this exists.
Institute for Apprenticeships
To regulate quality in the context of reaching 3m starts by 2020, an independent and employer-led body, the Institute for Apprenticeships, will be set up by April 2017. An independent chair will lead a small board of employers, business leaders and their representatives, to drive up Apprenticeship quality and approve Apprenticeship Standards. In the interim, the government intend to set up a shadow organisation in 2016 to oversee quality and governance.
As confirmed in the Spending Review, the government will introduce an employer Levy at 0.5% of paybill for all those who have payroll costs exceeding £3m. The document confirms that this will be introduced in April 2017 and will provide both the necessary money to fund £3m Apprenticeships and will likely drive demand from employers wanting to engage with Apprenticeships.
Digital Voucher System
Employers will choose and pay for Apprenticeship training through a Digital Voucher system. A new online Digital Apprenticeship Service portal will be introduced in October 2016 and fully rolled-out by April 2017, allowing employers to select the most appropriate Apprenticeship, choose a training provider and pay for the training and assessment. Each employer will have a digital account – for Levy payers, this will include their funding which will be used with providers on a commercial basis. Non-Levy payers (depending on their size and the age of the apprentice) will pay their contribution, which the government will supplement before issuing a digital voucher for the employer to use with their chosen training provider. In this sense, the purchasing power will sit with the employer, rather than the provider.
Training providers and employers need to be ready
Given the likely increase in demand from employers, the document states: ‘it is crucial that providers are ready to respond to this new demand and use the coming months to prepare to develop and deliver the ‘off-the-job’ training needed for the new employer-designed Standards.’ Training providers will need to adapt to the changes to Standards, assessment and funding, whilst meeting employer demand, contributing to the 3m target and dealing with Area Based Reviews (if you’re an FE College) – quite a challenge! Employers will also need to understand the new system and their responsibilities.
SDN are involved in the delivery of the Future Apprenticeships programme, which, as cited in the government’s five year plan, will help providers to prepare to deliver Apprenticeships in the new landscape. You can find out more about the programme here.
SDN have been working very closely with both Employer Groups developing Apprenticeship Standards and training providers to prepare for the reforms. In fact, one of the examples used in the document (IPS International Ltd), was one of the providers we supported! If you need support to get ready for the Apprenticeship reforms, get in contact with us to find out more. You can also sign up here for free content and events from SDN.