Scrutiny of draft Apprenticeships Bill

05 December 2008

The draft Apprenticeships Bill may help strengthen existing structures for apprenticeships in England, but it does not go far enough to ensure the quality of apprenticeships, says a report published today by the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee

The draft Bill should be rewritten to promote, monitor and report on the quality of apprenticeships and the Committee expresses concern that without such provisions, the legislation risks devaluing apprenticeships and they will not be regarded as a progressive route to a career.

All suitably qualified young people will have the right to an apprenticeship place, according to the draft Bill. However, the Committee is unclear on what this right will mean in practice and recommends that the Government makes a statement setting out its intention.

The Committee saw no provisions in the draft Bill specifically designed to encourage apprenticeships during the economic downturn. It urges the Government to state how it expects the public sector to provide and organise apprenticeships to meet the challenges of the downturn, and what additional resources will be provided, particularly as the legislation places employers in the driving seat.

Small businesses must receive assistance with the administrative burden of setting up and running apprenticeships. The Committee recommends that the draft Bill is revised to place a duty on the National Apprenticeship Service to establish bodies such as Group Training Associations to help small businesses provide quality apprenticeships.

The Committee found that its scrutiny of the draft Bill was hindered by the following omissions:

  • The specification of apprenticeship standards, which will set out the core elements of all apprenticeships
  • Details on how the National Apprenticeship Service would be resourced or organised
  • How the legislation would apply in Wales

Chairman of the Committee Phil Willis said:

“This legislation builds on and complements existing structures but the new arrangements will have to provide apprenticeships for tens of thousands more if the Government is to meet its aspiration for 400,000 apprentices in England by 2020. The focus on increasing the volume of apprenticeships must not be done at the expense of quality; we urge the Government to make clear in the draft Bill how it will ensure that quality is guaranteed. If quality falters, no one will want to become an apprentice.

“It is a challenging time to be introducing employer-led apprenticeships, particularly for small businesses, and every effort must be made to ensure they are supported and receive the necessary help.

“We hope the Government will respond fully to our recommendations in order to create a Bill which will provide a successful alternative to further and higher education routes and which is recognised as so by all those involved.”

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