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Government must put employers at the heart of apprenticeships

Commenting on the Richard Review on apprenticeships, Cheryl Smart MBE, Chief Executive of Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce said:

“Apprenticeships are a key pillar of the UK skills system and Doug Richard is right to focus on making them responsive to the needs of the economy by making them employer-led. We are pleased that the government has invested in boosting the number of apprentices, but businesses want to see excellent outcomes, not just a higher take up. Apprenticeships must become aspirational for both young people and employers.”

On direct funding to employers she commented:

“The current system of centralised funding contracts for training providers creates incentives that are not in the best interest of apprentices, employers or the economy as a whole. Ministers must take this opportunity to recognise that employers are the real consumers of apprenticeships, and give employers a greater say over how government funds are used. Boosting employers’ purchasing power using a National Insurance relief will ensure that providers focus on serving the needs of the economy. It will also create a stronger incentive for all businesses to invest in training the next generation of skilled workers.”

Turning to the qualification design, Cheryl Smart said that Bedfordshire Chamber supported the review’s drive to ensure that apprenticeships are seen as as an achievement judged according to professional standards, rather than simply a process to be completed.

‘The new qualifications should be designed by the body best able to represent employers in their sector. ‘ she said ‘These bodies should be given the freedom to test for skills that meet the needs of employers and guarantee achievement of the highest standard. These changes will help apprenticeships regain their reputation as something that both young people and employers should aspire to.”

“Limiting apprenticeships to people starting a new occupation will strengthen the brand, and provide clarity about what an apprenticeship actually is. If ministers accept this recommendation, they must also bring forward proposals on alternative pre-apprenticeship and in-work training. Chambers of Commerce across the country will continue to work with the National Apprenticeship Service and local schools to raise awareness among young people, teachers, parents and employers about the many opportunities that apprenticeships provide.”