Report published 30 November 2016. Government response published 6 February 2017.
Scope of the inquiry
The Public Accounts Committee will soon be examining the value derived from apprenticeships. The Department for Education has not set out how it will use the increase in apprenticeship numbers to deliver improvement in productivity, and how it will influence the mix of apprenticeships in order to deliver the most value, according to a recent National Audit Office report.
The Department for Education has also not defined what 'success' will look like in the reformed programme. Research shows that different apprenticeships offer significantly different benefits, but the Department is not clear about how it plans to use this evidence to maximise the value derived from the mix of apprenticeships undertaken.
In England, an apprenticeship is a full-time paid job, available to those aged 16 or over. It incorporates on and off-the-job training and leads to a nationally recognised certificate.
Annual public funding of apprenticeships has grown over time. In 2010–11, it amounted to just under £1.2 billion, but by 2015–16 the figure had risen to around £1.5 billion. Since 2013, there has been a process to develop new, employer-led, apprenticeship 'standards', which will eventually replace the previous frameworks.
National Audit Office report
The National Audit Office report finds that many of the employers and training providers involved in designing and delivering apprenticeships support the principles behind the new standards, but more work is needed to raise awareness of them.
In practice, the process of introducing the new standards has been resource-intensive and has taken longer than the Department envisaged.
Employers involved in developing the new standards have expressed concern about the time they have to invest at their own expense. As at April 2016, only around 2,600 people had started an apprenticeship under the new standards.