Apprenticeships – Provider Perspectives
from the Heart of the South West
Ben Neild, Assistant Director
Table of Figures and Tables 4
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 5
1. INTRODUCTION 7
2. CONTEXT 9
2.1 History of Apprenticeships 9
3. COALITION APPRENTICESHIP POLICY 11
3.1 Apprenticeship funding 11
3.2 Employer contributions 12
3.3 Priorities for expansion 13
3.4 Priorities by age 14
3.5 The Role of the Training Provider 14
3.6 Quality issues 15
3.7 Returns on gaining apprenticeships 18
4. DATA ANALYSIS 20
4.1 Apprenticeship growth 20
4.2 Growth by age group 20
4.3 Apprenticeships by Level 21
4.4 Success rates 23
4.5 Local variations 23
4.6 Apprenticeships by Sector 25
5. PROVIDER PERSPECTIVES 27
5.1 Colleges 27
5.1.1 Colleges’ geographical focus 28
5.2 Training Providers 29
5.3 The ‘level playing field’ 31
5.4 Unitisation and the Qualifications and Credit Framework 32
5.5 Apprenticeship expansion and competition 33
5.6 Subcontracting 36
5.7 SFA Priority Sectors 36
5.8 Pre-apprenticeships 37
5.9 Foundation Learning 38
5.10 Access to Apprenticeships 40
5.11 16 to 18 year olds 42
5.11.1 Demography 43
2 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
5.11.2 Future policy on 16 to 18 year old apprenticeships 44
5.12 Adult Apprenticeships 45
5.12.1 19 to 24 year olds 45
5.12.2 People age 25 and over 46
5.12.3 Train to Gain 48
5.13 SASE Requirements 49
5.14 Quality 51
5.14.1 Accelerated Apprenticeships 52
5.14.2 Consistency between Frameworks 53
5.14.3 Off-the-job training 54
5.15 Converting existing staff to Apprenticeships 55
5.16 National training providers 57
5.17 Employer contributions 60
5.18 Level 3 apprenticeships 62
5.19 Higher Apprenticeships 64
5.20 Growth Opportunities 66
5.20.1 Geographical Opportunities 66
5.20.2 Priority Sectors 67
5.20.3 Sector-based opportunities 68
Health, Social Care and Childcare 68
Creative and Media 70
Hair and beauty 70
Retail, Hospitality and Travel and Tourism 70
5.20.4 Renewables 71
5.21 Factors limiting apprenticeship growth 73
5.21.1 Economic conditions 73
5.21.2 Economic conditions and young people 73
5.21.3 Bureaucracy/slow introduction of Frameworks 74
5.21.4 Financial issues 75
5.21.5 Staffing 76
5.21.6 Employer demand 77
5.22 Loans 79
5.23 Information Advice and Guidance 80
5.23.1 Promoting apprenticeships to parents 82
5.24 School-based vocational training 83
5.24.1 Academies 84
5.25 National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) 85
5.26 The ‘100 in 100’ Apprenticeship Campaign 88
5.27 The Work Programme 90
5.28 The role of HotSW LEP 91
5.28.1 Communication and partnership working 92
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 3
5.28.2 Promoting apprenticeships to employers 92
5.28.3 IAG and promoting apprenticeships in schools 94
5.28.4 Lobbying 95
Access to Apprenticeships/Young Apprenticeships 95
SSC and gaining approval for new frameworks 95
National providers 96
Off-the-job training 96
5.28.5 Financial incentive schemes 96
5.28.6 Local authorities 97
5.28.7 Priority sectors 98
5.28.8 Geographical priorities 100
5.28.9 Inward investment 101
5.28.10 Labour Market Intelligence 102
6. RECOMMENDATIONS 103
Annex 1 – Steering Group Members and Interviewees 105
Table of Figures and Tables
Figure 1: Total Apprenticeship Programme Starts, HotSW vs South West & England,
2005/06 - 20010/11 (Index 2005/06 = 100) ......................................................................... 20
Figure 2: Apprenticeship Programme Starts by age Group, HotSW, 2005/06 - 2009/10...... 21
Figure 3: Percentage of 16 to 18 year olds starting Apprenticeships by District/Unitary
Authority Area, 2009/10 ...................................................................................................... 24
Figure 4: Percentage of 19 to 24 year olds starting Apprenticeships by District/Unitary
Authority Area, 2009/10 ...................................................................................................... 24
Figure 5: Apprenticeship starts by Sector, HotSW vs England, 2009/10 ............................. 26
Table 1: SFA Programme Budget ....................................................................................... 12
Table 2: Apprenticeships (%) by level and age, HotSW, 2005/06 - 20010/11 ...................... 22
Table 3: Apprenticeship Success Rates by Local Authority, South West, 2004/05 - 2009/10
4 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
This is a summary of findings from a research project, Apprenticeships – Provider
Perspectives from the Heart of the South West. It was commissioned by the Heart of the
South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP) in order to understand better the
challenges involved in growing apprenticeship provision in Devon and Somerset.
Delivering more apprenticeships is a pivotal element of the Coalition Government’s skills
strategy, Skills for Sustainable Growth (November 2010). Substantial additional funding has
been made available for apprenticeships, and providers are under pressure to devote an
increasing proportion of their ‘employer-responsive’ funding to this form of training.
Simultaneously, there is a drive to ‘re-shape apprenticeships’ towards Level 3; to increase
the number of apprenticeship Frameworks and introduce Higher Apprenticeships. In
2010/11, 15,630 people across the Heart of the South West started an apprenticeship. This
represents a rise of 9,320 or 148% over the six years from 2005/06 and a rise of 4,190 or
37% in the last year alone. This is due to a rapid growth in adult apprenticeships, particularly
those delivered to people over 25. The number of 16 to 18 year old apprentices and the
proportion of apprenticeships delivered at Level 3 have remained stubbornly unchanged for
the last five years.
Tensions exist between government’s desire for provision to be ‘employer-led’ and its
desire to ramp up the delivery of one form of provision – apprenticeships.
The delivery of qualification units, under the Qualifications and Credit Framework, is
attractive to employers, but may dampen demand for apprenticeships and full
Training providers are facing a period of considerable upheaval and competition in the
training market place. The growth of national and international players is giving rise to
concerns about quality and resources leaving the region.
The loss of Skills Funding Agency staff and capability suggests that the level of strategic
oversight is likely to diminish further, unless other bodies such as Employment and Skills
Boards or the LEP take on such a role.
Providers support a clear, high-quality pathway to enable young people to access
apprenticeships. They are concerned that Access to Apprenticeship is inflexible and not
Providers are working hard to drive up the number of young people (16-18) in fully-
funded apprenticeships. However, in the current economic climate, growth is difficult to
Volumes of adult apprenticeships are rising, mainly among people aged 25 and over, as
a result of employers converting existing employees over to apprenticeships. Concerns
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 5
exist that this practice, in pursuit of targets, may result in ‘brand-stretch’, to the detriment
of apprenticeships in the longer term.
Providers appreciate the need for robust and consistent apprenticeship standards, but
also point out that the broadening content of apprenticeships under the Specification of
Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE) acts as a brake on expansion.
The lack of a clear, consistent employer contribution towards the cost of apprenticeships
is a concern for many providers.
Reductions in per capita funding for many apprenticeships is cited as a constraint on
growth, with some providers calling for ‘full funding’ for all apprenticeships up to age 21.
Providers see opportunities for apprenticeship expansion linked to the major economic
developments within the Heart of the South West.
Providers see a clear need to raise the profile and status of apprenticeships in the eyes
of young people and their parents. They identify cuts to Connexions, Careers South
West and the National Apprenticeship Service as making this more difficult to achieve.
Providers have concerns about schools, particularly Academies, expanding their
vocational provision in order to retain pupils. They suggest that such provision could be
of poor quality.
Recommendations from providers
HotSW LEP should:
clarify its intentions and set out the process and structures through which it will
communicate with providers.
prioritise the championing of apprenticeships, particularly with SMEs and employers who
have not delivered them before.
support networks of employers and young people acting as apprenticeship ambassadors
and use its influence to ensure that they are able to talk to young people in schools.
act as a voice for the Heart of the South West on skills issues and should establish clear
communication structures to ensure that provider concerns are heard and raised, and
that feedback is provided.
work with the ESBs and local authorities to ensure that incentives and activities to
promote apprenticeships are co-ordinated across the HotSW area.
use its influence to ensure that Local Authorities use apprenticeships as a vehicle for
recruiting and up-skilling their own staff and that of their contractors.
Make a clear statement about its priority sectors and ensure, for the present, that efforts
to drive up apprenticeship numbers in specific sectors or geographical areas are based
on promotional activity and incentives.
collate data and examples of high quality apprenticeship programmes in the area for use
as part of a package to attract inward investors.
support improvements in local and sector focused labour market intelligence in the area.
6 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have been created ‘to provide the clear vision and
strategic leadership to drive sustainable private sector-led growth and job creation in their
On 31 March, ministers approved the creation of the Heart of the South West (HotSW) LEP,
on the basis of a prospectus2 which listed the following amongst its priorities:
ensuring our workforce is equipped with the skills that businesses need;
supporting the development and delivery of the right skills for our potential growth
improving skills and educational attainment levels, giving individuals more choice and
access to a wider range of employment opportunities.
In selecting these priorities, the LEP did not start afresh. It consulted partners and built on
existing work, including that of the five Employment and Skills Boards (ESBs) within the
HotSW area. Four of these five ESBs3 had just completed a major piece of work, which
identified ‘Increasing the supply of apprenticeships’ to be a common priority4.
However, driving up apprenticeship volumes is not unproblematic. While LEPs have
responsibility for providing strategic leadership, they have no formal powers over
apprenticeship providers or direct capacity to shape what they deliver. The LEP has to
achieve its goals through dialogue - with the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), colleges and
training providers - and through the influence and moral authority that flows from the role
allocated to it by the Government.
On 13 July 2011, Productive Skills for Devon & Somerset (PS4DS), a sub-group of the
HotSW LEP that brings together the five local ESBs, met to consider SLIM’s Apprenticeships
Data Report5 and to discuss the challenges involved in growing apprenticeship provision.
The Group recognised the importance of this dialogue and the need for it to be informed by
an understanding of: providers’ aspirations for apprenticeship growth; the factors shaping
these aspirations; and how the LEP could support providers in developing the supply of
apprenticeships in the area.
A steering group was established6, charged with delivering a semi-structured, qualitative
survey of the ten largest college and ten largest private/voluntary sector apprenticeship
Local Growth White Paper, HM Government, October 2010, p. 13.
Available from: http://www.swslim.org.uk/Downloads/local/leps/hotsw-submission.pdf
The four were Plymouth, Northern Devon, Exeter & Heart of Devon and Torbay. Somerset was not part of this
Pan Devon Work & Skills Priorities, SLIM, November 2011. See www.swslim.org.uk/Downloads/SL2641.pdf
Comprising representatives of Devon County Council, the Skills Funding Agency, National Apprenticeship
Service, Devon & Cornwall Training Providers Network & SLIM
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 7
providers in HotSW. This report presents the findings of the survey, alongside an
explanation of the context in which it was conducted and a review of the latest data.
SLIM is very grateful to the many individuals and organisations that supported this work. In
particular, we would like to thank the members of the steering group and the representatives
of colleges and training providers who kindly gave up their time to be interviewed. These
individuals and organisations are listed in Annex 1.
8 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
2.1 History of Apprenticeships
To set this work in context, it is useful, briefly, to reflect upon the history of apprenticeships,
from which many of our contemporary debates about them arise. Apprenticeships have a
long history in Britain, going back to the Guilds of the middle ages. At this time, they existed
as a route by which young people entered a skilled trade and became licensed to practice as
a skilled artisan. Since that time, they have also been subject to government regulation. In
1563, the Statute of Artificers stipulated that the master-apprentice relationship should last a
minimum of seven years. In 1802, legislation required factory apprentices to be taught
mathematics, reading and writing. Through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,
apprenticeships spread into the newer industries and occupations - engineering,
shipbuilding, plumbing and electrical trades - until by the mid 1960s, there were an estimated
240,000 apprentices in the UK. Thereafter, the number fell back dramatically, to less than
60,000 by 1990, due to the decline of the traditional industries that offered the majority of
apprenticeships, growth in full-time post-16 education and government support for
alternative programmes, such as the Youth Training Scheme (YTS).
Under the YTS scheme, created during the 1980s in response to youth unemployment and a
shortage of apprenticeships, young people did not need to be employed to receive
vocational training. Private training providers were brought in to find work experience and
placements for young people, weakening both the relationship between employer and
trainee and the employer’s central role as trainer and guardian of occupational standards.
Following criticism of YTS7 and concern about intermediate level skills shortages, in 1994
the Government announced the creation of ‘Modern Apprenticeships’, delivered at Level 3.
The delivery model was not dissimilar to that for YTS, with training providers paid to
persuade employers to recruit young people as apprentices and to deliver occupational
training. The key difference was that apprentices were employed. The result of this was that
they started being delivered to people already in employment.
The Government’s involvement in funding apprenticeships has led to the frequent re-
designing and re-branding8 of Apprenticeships since 1994. Since then, we have had, not just
Modern Apprenticeships, but Foundation Modern Apprenticeships, Advanced Modern
Apprenticeships, Youth Apprenticeships, Programme-led Apprenticeships, (normal)
Apprenticeships, Advanced Apprenticeships, and Higher Apprenticeships, reflecting changes
in priorities relating to qualification level, age entitlement, mode of delivery, content and so
The main criticisms were that they attained low levels of job and qualification outcomes and could amount to a
form of cheap labour for employers and device for keeping youth unemployment figures down. See for example,
The Independent ‘Youth training schemes a disgrace and failure, says Labour’, February 1995,
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 9
The main changes since 1994 have been:
expansion in the service sector and a dramatic rise in female participation;
the addition of Apprenticeships at Level 2 in 2000;
the addition of theoretical elements in 2003, reinforced in 2005;
scrapping of the 25 age limit and introduction of Adult Apprenticeships in 2004;
the addition of a technical certificate in 2003/04.
It is also worth briefly mentioning Train to Gain, a programme which has recently become
entwined with that of Apprenticeships. Train to Gain was introduced nationally in 2006, as a
‘flexible’, ‘responsive’ programme for upskilling adults who were in work without
qualifications at Level 2. In 2007/08, in pursuit of the Leitch targets, additional ‘flexibilities’
were introduced to extend the programme to people taking a second Level 2 qualification
and, subject to certain conditions, Level 3s. Having come under criticism for being
unrealistically ambitious, overly focused on the accreditation of existing skills, subsidising
training that employers would have provided anyway and being unaffordable (in the light of
the recession), Train to Gain is now being run down, with the funding vired into the SFA’s
budget for apprenticeships. This means that providers are working with employers to convert
previous Train to Gain programmes, focused on certifying vocational competence/NVQs,
into apprenticeships, which adds theoretical and ‘functional skills’ training to the NVQ
10 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
3. COALITION APPRENTICESHIP POLICY
Since coming to power, the Coalition Government has repeatedly stated its commitment to
Apprenticeships. Indeed, the abolition of Train to Gain has left Apprenticeships as the new
showpiece vocational education and skills policy in England.
The Government White Paper, Skills for Sustainable Growth, published in November 2010,
was accompanied by an investment strategy, Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth.
Collectively, these set out the Government’s Skills Strategy and how would invest in Further
Education (FE) and skills over the Spending Review period. Significant savings are planned,
although the Strategy continues to emphasise the importance of achieving high levels of
participation in skills development. The new Skills Strategy has moved away from focusing
on particular sectors to providing greater freedom for providers to deliver provision linked to
3.1 Apprenticeship funding
In Oct 2010, the Government announced the release of £250m to fund 75,000 new
In March 20119, it found an additional £180m to fund:
o a further 50,000 Apprenticeships for young people over four years: and
o 10,000 Higher Apprenticeships in SMEs by 2015.
In November 2011, it announced that an additional 20,000 incentive payments of up
to £1,500 would be available to employers taking on young Apprentices aged 16 to
24 in 2012/13, taking the total number of these payments to 40,000 next year.
These announcements relate to the allocation of additional resources to Apprenticeships.
Alongside this, there is a continuing flow of existing resources into Apprenticeships and out
of other programmes, notably Train to Gain.
The impact, once these two trends are brought together, can be seen Table 1. This shows
that the overall national budget for Apprenticeships for the period August 2011 to August
2012 was up 78% on the previous year. It will continue to rise in the future. This is taking
place within the context of a decline in the Adult Skills Budget as a whole.
Plan for Growth, HM Treasury & BIS, March 2011
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 11
Table 1: SFA Programme Budget
2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 (Indicative)
Apprenticeship Budget (£'000's) 360,810 644,000 698,000 726,000
% Growth 78% 8% 4%
Total Adult Skills Budget (£'000's) 2,835,871 2,834,542 2,699,009 2,497,346
% Growth 0% -5% -7%
Source: BIS: Skills Investment Statement 2011- 2014 (Dec 2011) and BIS: Investing in Skills for
Sustainable Growth (Nov 2010).
This funding currently pays for:
100% of the training costs for people aged 16 to 18 year old; and
100% of the training costs for all people aged 19 to 24 who do not already hold a
Level 2 qualification;
Up to 50% of the competency and technical knowledge-based qualifications for those
aged 19 to 2410 who already have a first full Level 2 qualification11;
50% of the training costs for people aged 25 and older who work in organisations
with under 1,000 employees;
25% for those working in organisations with over 1,000 employees.
There are also some further variations, depending on factors such as the sector the training
is being delivered in.
3.2 Employer contributions
Employers must pay apprentices wages of at least £2.50 per hour, and are responsible for
‘co-funding’ the remaining cost of delivering the apprenticeship. They may do this by either
paying cash to the training providers, or by delivering elements of the training themselves, in
which case their contribution is ‘in-kind’.
The proportion of the overall cost of the apprenticeship that is picked up by employers (in
cash or kind) varies considerably from provider to provider. Some providers appear to cross
subsidise the cost of training some apprentice groups with funding received for training
others, while large national employers may opt to hold direct contracts with the National
Apprenticeship Service (NAS). Those who do, receive funds directly from government, which
Government currently pays for 82.5% of the key/functional skill elements of Apprenticeships for people aged
The reduction in funding is primarily based on the assumption that apprentices aged over 19 will bring a
greater level of experience and competencies with them and will therefore require less input from employers and
providers to achieve the Apprenticeship.
12 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
they use to train their own staff, sometimes buying in services from external training
providers, such as NVQ assessment, if this suits them.
Given the multitude of possible arrangements, the notion of requiring employers to make a
fixed contribution towards the cost of apprenticeship training is clearly problematic.
3.3 Priorities for expansion
Increasing the volume of Apprenticeships is not the only goal of national or local policy.
Government12 and NAS are also focused on:
1) Reshaping Apprenticeships so that technician level – Level 3 – becomes the level to
which learners and employers aspire.
2) Broadening the range of Apprenticeship Frameworks that are available, so enabling
people to use apprenticeships to access and progress in a wider range of
3) Developing apprenticeships as a foundation for higher level learning, generating
clear ladders of progression from Advanced (Level 3) Apprenticeships to Higher
Level (Level 4) Apprenticeships, foundation degrees and other forms of Higher
4) Promoting apprenticeship take-up among smaller firms, who may have been
discouraged by the administration, costs and risks associated with employing
5) Promoting greater diversity of people starting apprenticeships and encouraging men
and women to take up ‘atypical’ courses.
6) Promoting Apprenticeships in sectors (e.g. public sector) where take-up has
historically been low.
7) Focusing Apprenticeships in particular sectors where investment will make the
greatest economic impact.
These goals apply to all apprenticeships. Government also has priorities for the delivery of
apprenticeships to people in different age groups.
See Skills for Sustainable Growth: Strategy Document, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS),
Advanced frameworks will be included in the UCAS Tariff from 2011, with different qualifications attracting
different tariff scores
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 13
3.4 Priorities by age
In response to high levels of youth unemployment, the Government is particularly focused on
raising the number of 16 to 24 year old apprentices and on encouraging employers who are
not yet engaged to take on new young apprentices.
For young people (aged 16 to 18), the priority is ensure that a) by 2013, an Apprenticeship
place is available to all suitably-qualified young people and b) by 2020, at least one out of
every five young people is undertaking an apprenticeship. Apprenticeship expansion is also
a central plank in the Government’s strategy for keeping young people engaged as the age
for remaining in learning is raised, first to 17 in 2013 and then to 18 in 2015. Apprenticeships
are also increasingly being looked to as a vehicle for tackling the large number of young
people who are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)14.
For Adults (aged 19 and over), ‘continuing to increase and expand the number of adults
undertaking an Apprenticeship is the Government’s central plank in meeting its wider skills
policies for the country’15. Funding will be increasingly focused on adults aged 19 to 24 and
on those who do not already hold Level 2 qualifications.
From 2013/14, the Government will withdraw from funding Apprenticeships at Level 3 and
above where these are taken by people aged 25 and older. These adults will be offered
loans to pay for 50% of their training costs, on a basis that may be similar that being
introduced in HE.
A second focus for adults is on moving towards Advanced and Higher Level
Some have argued that this range of priorities leads to conflicting messages about
Apprenticeships, particularly for employers.
3.5 The Role of the Training Provider
Compared with many other European countries, the English Apprenticeship model gives its
providers a high degree of discretion over what they deliver, to whom and how. Providers
must meet the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE) and deliver
volumes and success rates that satisfy the SFA. They are inspected by Ofsted, which may
also impact on whether contracts are renewed in future. However, as long as they operate
successfully within this framework, they are free to negotiate with employers on such things
as: the duration of apprenticeship programmes; the amount of on- and off-the-job training to
be provided; the price and employer contribution.
In March 2011, Government announced the creation of 40,000 Apprenticeships specifically focused on young
people who were NEET. See http://readingroom.lsc.gov.uk/SFA/SFA-Apprenticeships19to24NEET-publicpaper-
11jul2011.pdf . Under the Youth Contract, announced in November 2011, £50 million a further £50 million will be
made available to businesses and providers who help persistently NEET 16 and 17-year-olds by getting them
back to education, onto an apprenticeship or into a job with training.
NAS Priorities for 2010/11, NAS website
14 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
Another feature of our market-oriented model is the wide variety of organisations involved in
delivering apprenticeships. In 2009/10, 67% of publicly-funded apprenticeship starts
nationally were delivered by private sector training providers, 21% by colleges and 11% by
‘other’ organisations, including voluntary organisations and those owned by local authorities
and other public sector bodies. Small numbers of apprenticeships were delivered by schools
and sixth form colleges16 and there were 68 large employers who contracted directly with the
SFA to deliver apprenticeships to their own staff. These 68 employers accounted for around
8% of apprenticeship starts.
This approach differs significantly from the more highly prescribed, partnership-based
continental models. In Germany, for example, only qualified ‘Meisters’ can provide in-
company mentoring/training; chambers of crafts or commerce must deliver a set amount of
off-the-job training for each occupation; and a berufsshule or berufskolleg is responsible for
delivering one or two days of theoretical training and continuing education17 per week to all
The market-oriented English model is, instead, founded on a belief that a combination of
flexibility and competition, safeguarded via extensive inspection and outcome-focused
contracting processes, will produce the optimum balance of outcomes for employers,
employees and providers alike. Current policy is unlikely to change this, for, as John Hayes,
Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, explains in a recent
piece on Restoring the worth of apprenticeships:
The Government will free FE colleges to innovate and excel … We are replacing the
costly regime of centralisation with genuine devolution of power within the system.
The Government’s primary role is to create a framework that helps individuals and
their employers to get the learning they want or need. An indispensable part of
achieving this goal is removing the barriers in the way of learning providers’ efforts to
respond to what their customers are demanding18.
3.6 Quality issues
Any desire to expand apprenticeship volumes, on the part of HotSW LEP and the providers
within it, must be tempered by considerations of quality. High-quality, well-paid
apprenticeships are hugely over-subscribed, as demonstrated by British Telecom’s recent
receipt of 24,000 applications for 221 Apprenticeship places19. But what exactly do we mean
by ‘quality’ and how can we assess whether we were delivering more of it?
This may sound obscure, but before getting into this issue, it makes sense to consider,
briefly, what we actually mean by ‘learning’.
Mire reports, The Data Service - http://mireportslibrary.thedataservice.org.uk/learners/
Normally including literacy and numeracy, foreign language learning and citizenship education (e.g. politics).
Restoring the Worth of Apprenticeships, John Hayes article in Rethinking Apprenticeships, IPPR, Nov 2011, p.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 15
Educational theorists20 argue that learning involves much more than the transmission of
theoretical or practical skills from one person to another (e.g. how to use a piece of
machinery). It is, they argue, a social process in which people come together to share
information, values and behaviours. This, of course, occurs all the time, which makes much
learning informal and unintentional. But it can also be deliberate, as with apprenticeships,
which (traditionally) have involved introducing young people into an occupational ‘community
of practice’, to absorb the skills, beliefs, values or behaviours of seasoned and respected
practitioners of that occupation. So, ‘becoming’ a plumber, a manager or a care worker
involves not just the acquisition of theoretical and practical skills, but a decision to acquire an
identity that is shared with the other members of the community. Clearly this takes some
While workplace-based learning is a critical element to apprenticeships, it is not, Fuller and
Unwin argue, of itself, sufficient. Apprentices also need access to formal instruction, and
spaces for reflection, where they can transcend workplace concerns and make sense of their
experience. High-quality ‘expansive’ apprenticeships afford apprentices dual status, of
employee and learner, giving them the chance to be part of communities of practice both
within and outside the workplace; the chance to experience as much of the work process as
possible; to understand and absorb company goals and values; to have access to a broad
curriculum, progression opportunities and so on. ‘Restrictive’ apprenticeships, by contrast,
tend to focus on producing profitable workers fast and, in so doing, fail to allow apprentices
time to study deeply, to see the business from all angles, or reflect on what they are
learning21. While restrictive apprenticeships may produce a short-term return for employers,
in most cases, they result in apprentices losing the chance to fulfill their potential and
employers losing the chance to make the most of their apprentices’ abilities.
For Fred Grindrod and Iain Murray of the TUC:
Apprenticeships must be high-quality, holistic career development opportunities and
should not be viewed simply as a means of subsidising employers to deliver
occupation-specific training, although that form of training is one element of the
A concern, raised repeatedly by the providers interviewed for this study, is that the pursuit of
rapid apprenticeship growth may compromise quality. As Grindrod and Murray go on to put
There continues to be a tension between the aim of recent governments to expand
the number of apprenticeship opportunities and evidence showing that expansion in
some areas of the economy is being accompanied by practices that undermine
quality and equality. Restricting expansion is not an option; demand among young
See, for example, Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation, Jean Lave and Etienne
Wenger,University of Cambridge Press, (1991).
Unwin & Fuller, Towards Expansive Apprenticeships, ESRC/TLRP, 2008. See
Grindrod & Murray, Making quality count: The Union View, in Rethinking Apprenticeships, IPPR, November
2011, p. 72
16 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
people (and adult employees) for apprenticeship places is outstripping supply and
employer engagement in the UK lags behind the rest of Europe23.
International comparisons show that delivering high volumes of apprenticeships and
delivering high quality apprenticeships are not intrinsically at odds with each other. In the
German-speaking countries operating the ‘Dual System’ – Austria, Germany and
Switzerland – over 40 per cent of school-leavers are taken on by employers in three-year
apprenticeships, almost all of which lead to recognised qualifications at Level 324. In
England, only six per cent of 16 to 18 year olds were in apprenticeships in 2010. On
average, these apprenticeships lasted just over one year25 and, in HotSW, 77% of 2010/11
apprenticeship starts by this age group were at Level 226. The established role of
apprenticeships, which helps large numbers of young people to make an effective transition
into work in these countries, is without doubt a major factor in their youth unemployment
rates being only half that reported in the UK2728.
In England, there is a recognition that the quality and consistency of apprenticeships needs
to be improved. A new set of standards, the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for
England (SASE), were introduced in January 2011. These set out the volume of competence
based, knowledge-based and ‘functional skills’29 to be included in apprenticeships at
different levels and stipulate that apprenticeships must include a minimum of 280 guided
learning hours a year, 100 of which should be ‘off-the-job’. This is equivalent to one day a
week of guided learning over 36 weeks, of which two hours a week would be off-the-job
learning – considerably less than in many continental models. However, in the English
context, this is a significant ‘push’ and one that is being keenly felt by providers - particularly
the requirement to provide training in English and maths up to GCSE standards, where
apprentices have not already achieved this level.
The shift of resources from Train to Gain into apprenticeships, which have a broader content
and are more demanding to deliver, is another part of the Government’s effort to improve the
quality of government-sponsored training. So, too, is the push to increase progression rates,
the proportion of apprenticeships delivered at Level 3, success rates (e.g. the proportion of
apprentices who complete their Framework), and the proportion of apprenticeships delivered
by providers graded by Ofsted as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
Taken together, these demonstrate that, alongside the push to increase apprenticeship
numbers, there is a simultaneous drive to improve the quality of English apprenticeships.
These two aspirations can, as the Grindrod and Murray point out, be in tension. The
challenge for HotSW LEP and the Government, is to find levers or mechanisms that
Hilary Steedman, The State of Apprenticeships 2010, p.3, London School of Economics & Political science,
Hilary Steedman, Challenges and change: Apprenticeships in German-speaking Europe, in Rethinking
Apprenticeships, IPPR, November 2011, p. 93
The Data Service
Based on 2010 unemployment rates, cited in the Employment Outlook 2011.
Steedman, Op cit, p. P93.
The ‘functional skills’ are English, ICT and Maths and for demonstrating competence in a range of generic
skills, such as team-working, self-management, creative thinking, reflective learning and effective participation
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 17
simultaneously raise the quantity and quality of apprenticeships, or, at least, increase the
quantity without compromising the quality.
3.7 Returns on gaining apprenticeships
In 2010, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) reviewed the evidence on
the wage returns to individuals gaining apprenticeships30 - returns which can be taken as a
proxy for employer perspectives of the value of apprentices to their organisations.
Although there are significant differences by qualification level, sector, age and gender, the
over-arching finding was that apprenticeships provide significant wage returns to those who
undertake and achieve them. Apprenticeships at Level 3 are found to command a greater
return than those at Level 2, though all apprenticeships commanded a wage premium over
other qualifications at the same level.
The returns to apprenticeships in manufacturing tend to be greater than those in services,
with one study, conducted in 2007, showing average apprenticeship pay ranging from £109
per week in hairdressing to £210 in electro-technical engineering31. The strong gender
patterns that exist within apprenticeship take-up mean that returns tend to be lower for
women than they are for men.
Based on an average overall return to apprenticeships of 18% for men and 14% for women
at Level 332, one study calculated that creating an additional 400,000 apprenticeships by
2020 could generate up to £1.1 billion per year thereafter33. In all, this evidence led UKCES
to conclude that:
It is clear that both Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships pay for the
individual and the state with substantial wage returns to the holder compared to other
vocational qualifications. With the qualification being work-based it provides a
valuable route to higher earnings for those less keen on the academic route.
The benefits to employers of Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships were
identified earlier and taken together with the wage return evidence and net present
value make a powerful case for expanding provision34.
It is, however, important to note that these studies pre-date the recent rapid rise in
apprenticeship volumes. The extent to which the current patterns of growth in apprenticeship
The Value of Skills: An evidence review, UKCES, July 2010, http://www.ukces.org.uk/publications/er22-the-
Apprenticeship Pay: 2007 Survey of Earnings by Sector, Fong, B. and Phelps. A., Department for Innovation
Universities and Skills , 2008
A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Apprenticeships and Other Vocational Qualifications, S. Mackintosh, DfES 2006,
Research Report No. 834 and The Value of Intermediate Vocational Qualifications, S. Mackintosh, UK
Commission for Employment and Skills, 2009.
Winkler in A Rapid review of Research on Apprenticeships, Rudd, M., Henderson, R., Usher, D and Hawtin, M.
Learning and Skills Council, Coventry, 2008.
The Value of Skills: An evidence review, Op. cit., p. 107.
18 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
volumes may erode this historic wage premium, used by UKCES as a rationale for
apprenticeship expansion, is highly relevant, but unknown at this stage. The fact that
expansion is largely at level 2 and in the service sector suggests that it is very likely that
there will be an effect.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 19
4. DATA ANALYSIS
4.1 Apprenticeship growth
In 2010/11, 15,630 people started an apprenticeship across the Heart of the South West.
This is represented an increase of 9,320 or 148% over the six years from 2005/06 and an
increase of 4,190 or 37% in the last year alone. This rapid growth was not unique to HotSW.
Figure 1 shows that it occurred across England and also that the rate of growth in all areas
has accelerated rapidly since 2008/09.
Figure 1: Total Apprenticeship Programme Starts, HotSW vs South West & England,
2005/06 - 20010/11 (Index 2005/06 = 100)
2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11
HotSW South West England
Source: The Data Service
4.2 Growth by age group
Figure 2 shows the volume of apprenticeships started by people in different age groups
within the Heart of the South West from 2005/06 to 2009/10.
20 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
Figure 2: Apprenticeship Programme Starts by age Group, HotSW, 2005/06 - 2009/10
4,000 16 - 18
2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11
Source: The Data Service
It shows that the growth in apprenticeships has been almost entirely accounted for by growth
in the number of adult apprenticeships and, within this group, principally by growth in
apprenticeships delivered to people aged 25 and older.
The volume of apprenticeships started by 16 to 18 year olds rose by 15% over the five years
shown. However, as the figure for 2010/11 was also 5% lower than that for 2006/07, it is
safer to say that the overall growth for this group has, in recent years, been effectively static.
The number of 19 to 24 year olds starting apprenticeships grew gradually from 2005/06 to
2008/09 (by 31% over these three years). Since 2008/09, this rise has accelerated, with the
number of 19 to 24 year old apprenticeship starts growing by 55% in two years.
The dramatic change is in the very rapid rise in apprenticeships being delivered to people
aged 25 and over. Apprenticeships for this age group were only introduced in 2007/08. Over
the three years since this date, this has become the largest single group of apprenticeship
beneficiaries. The rise has been particularly dramatic over the last year, with numbers
growing from 2,340 in 2009/10, or 20% of all apprenticeship starts, to 6,110 in 2010/11, or
nearly 40% of all apprenticeship starts.
4.3 Apprenticeships by Level
Hilary Steedman points out that ‘Australia, England and France all offer apprenticeships at
more than one level of skill … Of these, England is the only country where apprenticeships
at Level 2 far outnumber those offered at Level 3. In Australia most apprenticeships are at
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 21
Certificate 3 level and in France just under half are at Level 2. In the dual system countries
and in Ireland almost all apprenticeships are at Level 3’35.
In 2010/11, within HotSW, 10,540 of the 15,640 people starting an apprenticeship (67% of
the total) started an Intermediate Apprenticeship, at Level 2. One percent started a Higher
Apprenticeship, at Level 4. The remaining 32% started Advanced Apprenticeships at Level
Table 2 shows that the proportion of young people, aged 16 to 18, who started Level 2
qualifications was even higher, at 77%, in 2010/11 and that the proportion of 18 to 24 year
olds starting qualifications at Levels 2 and 3 has remained unchanged over the last five
The proportion of adult apprenticeships at Level 2 was lower - 65% for 19 to 24 year olds
and 63% for those aged 25 and over - in 2010/11. However, it is interesting to note that last
year’s rapid expansion in the delivery of apprenticeships to those aged 25 and over has
been accompanied by a significant rise in the proportion of those apprenticeships being
delivered at the lower ‘Intermediate’ level.
Very few Higher Apprenticeships have been delivered, as yet.
Table 2: Apprenticeships (%) by level and age, HotSW, 2005/06 - 20010/11
16 - 18 2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11
Intermediate 78% 77% 77% 76% 78% 77%
Advanced 22% 23% 23% 24% 22% 23%
Higher 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
19 - 24 2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11
Intermediate 63% 60% 64% 67% 66% 65%
Advanced 37% 40% 36% 33% 32% 34%
Higher 0% 0% 0% 0% 2% 1%
25 and over 2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11
Intermediate 49% 57% 56% 63%
Advanced 51% 43% 43% 36%
Higher 0% 0% 1% 1%
Source: The Data Service
Hilary Steedman, The State of Apprenticeships 2010, p.3, London School of Economics & Political science,
22 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
4.4 Success rates
On a more positive note, apprenticeship success rates in the HotSW are high - significantly
above the national average in most areas. In all areas, the proportion of people who start an
apprenticeship and successfully complete their Framework has been rising continuously.
Table 3: Apprenticeship Success Rates by Local Authority, South West, 2004/05 -
2004/05 2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10
Devon 42.2% 49.4% 61.2% 70.3% 74.6% 80.1%
Plymouth 44.5% 55.6% 60.4% 66.2% 75.6% 80.1%
Somerset 36.7% 50.9% 59.1% 62.2% 72.2% 73.8%
Torbay 33.0% 50.4% 51.8% 63.7% 67.6% 76.2%
England 36.7% 48.7% 59.5% 64.2% 70.9% 73.9%
Source: The Data Service
Note: Denominator data used to generate success rates is not published, meaning that comparable
figures for LEPs cannot be derived.
4.5 Local variations
Figure 3 and Error! Reference source not found.Error! Reference source not found.
Figure 4 show the proportion of young people (aged 16 to 18 and 19 to 24) who started
Apprenticeships in each part of HotSW in 2009/1036.
There is a reasonable amount of variation, for both age groups, across different local
The spike in apprenticeship volumes in East Devon is accounted for by a large Ministry of
Defence contract. The urban centres of Exeter and Plymouth appear to have a lower than
average proportion of their 18 to 24 year old populations in apprenticeships, but this is likely
to be due to the presence of universities in these cities, which raises the volume of 19 to 24
year olds37, so depressing the proportion of this cohort in this form of training.
Although differences are clear, there are no discernible patterns to the data. It is probably
reasonable to suggest that the variation seen in the graph reflects the cumulative impact of
differences in the training provider base, differences in local economies and the consequent
demand for apprenticeships or, possibly, the impact of different local funding arrangements
and incentive schemes. However, the extent to which each of these factors may have
impacted on the data is impossible to determine from the data alone.
Calculated by dividing a) the total number residents (by home postcode) within each age group who started an
Apprenticeship in each area during 2009/10 by b) the resident population within each age group in each area,
according to the ONS 2010 mid-year population estimates.
In Exeter the number of 19 year olds is 91% higher than the number of 18 year olds. In Plymouth it is 60%
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 23
Figure 3: Percentage of 16 to 18 year olds starting Apprenticeships by District/Unitary
Authority Area, 2009/10
Source: The Data Service / ONS 2010 Mid-year Population Estimates
Figure 4: Percentage of 19 to 24 year olds starting Apprenticeships by District/Unitary
Authority Area, 2009/10
Source: The Data Service / ONS 2010 Mid-year Population Estimates
24 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
4.6 Apprenticeships by Sector
Across HotSW, the sectors with the greatest volumes of Apprenticeship starts in 2009/10
Adult Social Care/Healthcare 1,260 (11.1% of the total)
Customer Service & Contact Centre 1,030 (9.0%)
Retail 940 (8.2%)
Business, Administration & Governance 930 (8.2%)
Central Government including Armed forces 830 (7.3%)
Hospitality, Leisure, Travel & Tourism 690 (6.1%)
Automotive Industries 600 (5.3%)
There were also a number of sectors in which there were either no or fewer than 10
Apprenticeship starts during 2009/10, including:
Chemicals, Life sciences, Pharmaceuticals, Nuclear, Oil, Gas, Petroleum, Polymer
Creative & Cultural
Energy & Utility
Fashion & Textiles
Food & Drink
HotSW was not alone in the lack of delivery in these sectors, which all accounted for less
than one per cent of Apprenticeships at national level. There are many similarities between
the local and national patterns, but also some differences. In particular, the take-up of
Apprenticeships in the Adult Care and Central Government (including Armed forces) sectors
is above average. Take-up is also higher in:
Land based & environmental industries and
Finance and Accountancy services.
It is below the national average in:
Science, Engineering & Manufacturing Technologies
Management & Leadership (inc. HR)
Hair & Beauty
Freight, Logistics & Wholesale
Business & Administration
Business Information and IT
Active Leisure & Wellbeing.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 25
Figure 5: Apprenticeship starts by Sector, HotSW vs England, 2009/10
Supporting Teaching & Learning in Schools
Science, Engineering & Manufacturing Technologies
Process & Manufacturing
Marketing & Sales
Management & Leadership (inc HR & Recruitment)
Land-Based & Environmental Industries
Hospitality, Leisure, Travel & Tourism
Hair & Beauty
Freight Logistics & Wholesale
Finance, Accountancy & Financial Services
Facilities Mgt, Housing, Property, Planning & Cleaning
Customer Service & Contact Centre
Children & Young People
Central Government including Armed forces
Business, Administration & Governance
Business Information Technology & Telecommunication
Building Services Engineering
Adult Social Care/Healthcare
Active Leisure, Learning & Well-being
0.0% 2.0% 4.0% 6.0% 8.0% 10.0% 12.0%
Source: The Data Service
The fact that the pattern of provision in HotSW is different from that seen nationally is likely
to be desirable. The LEP may also wish to see and to encourage greater difference, either to
reflect differences in the labour market or to support skills acquisition in priority sectors that
are economically important to the area.
26 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
5. PROVIDER PERSPECTIVES
This section of the report summarises the responses 20 leading training providers gave to a
series of open-ended, qualitative questions. The survey took place in October and
We have not sought to include all the responses given by providers as this would have
resulted in an unwieldy and repetitive document. The responses included here have been
selected either because they are ‘typical’ of the general view, indicative of the breadth of
views or as meriting inclusion due an intrinsic interest or value to partners in the Heart of the
As stated, this is a qualitative study, with a limited number of providers. We have not,
therefore, attempted to classify and count the number of ‘similar’ responses given to each
question, although a general indication of frequency is given where this is seen as relevant.
Responses are identified as having been given by either a ‘college’ or by a ‘private provider’
spokesperson. The term ‘private provider’ is used very loosely. Readers should not assume
that responses labeled such are from for-profit/commercial organisations. As the list of
interviewees given in Annex 2 shows, a range of voluntary, not-for-profit and specialist
organisations are included under this heading. These identifiers are used in recognition of
the fact that the interests and approaches of these groups, although highly heterogenous in
themselves, may differ, as is explored in the next section.
Sections 6.1 and 6.2 provide some generalised views from colleges and private providers
respectively; thereafter the responses are categorised under a series of headings.
The opinions reflected in the quotes below are those of the interviewees. They do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of the institutions that employ them and they do not represent
the views, perspectives or opinions of the University of Exeter.
The colleges interviewed for this report felt a clear responsibility for serving the needs of the
communities in which they had been rooted, normally for many decades.
As a college we have a responsibility to provide a broad offer to people living in the
communities we serve. Apprenticeships are at the core of this, but the overall aim is to
provide training and progression opportunities across a range of specialisms, right up
to higher education. College
They were conscious that, while policies come and go, helping young people to make the
transition into working life was a role that would be theirs for the long term.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 27
The College has been running apprenticeships for 25 years now. It’s a long-
established activity, which started even before they were formally called
All college interviewees identified their apprenticeship provision as expanding and
broadening, normally beyond the traditional apprenticeship occupations, in response to
changes both in policy and the labour market. However, many also gave the impression of
this being an incremental, market-led process.
Our offer has been fairly representative of FE Colleges as a whole over the last 10 or
15 years. The range of subjects has broadened to include things like ICT, leadership
and management. It’s growing organically from the traditional subjects into new areas
and is increasingly based on delivering what employers require, rather than on the
expertise of the college. College
This was a view shared by some private providers.
Colleges tend to focus on the traditional Apprenticeship areas, such as engineering,
construction, hairdressing, food. A few have developed … most are area-based, providing
their specialist offer to a local community and training people who live within a 10 to 15
mile radius of their site or training centre. Private Provider
5.1.1 Colleges’ geographical focus
Although conscious of their roots and community responsibilities, colleges were also
very aware that ‘there are no rules about where we operate’. College
Currently, the national policy is not to dictate what we do, but to allow us to determine
this for ourselves. This approach does, however, both allow and, in a sense,
encourage us to deliver and expand apprenticeship provision in other parts of the
country … It makes sense for us to do this as a college, but I don’t think we would ever
consider setting up a major general training centre or ‘mini-College’ in some other part
of the country. College Spokesperson
We’re very much focused on our local area. We do operate out of area, but on a very
small scale. This isn’t because we’ve made a strategic decision not to go out of area,
but because our penetration rate with local businesses with the apprenticeships
programme is only about 10%, so there is an awful lot more to be done in the local
area. This is very much part of our mission and vision. College
The geographical expansion that does occur appears to be largely organic.
We delivered out of area with some very large companies when we were delivering
Train to Gain. They liked what we did locally and so asked us to support their work in
York, Runcorn and other places. College
28 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
And often to have a sectoral dimension.
In terms of our geographical coverage, this varies by sector. For print, we deliver
across a wide area, from Cornwall to Cambridge. Engineering is South West-based,
while hospitality is focused in Somerset and Dorset. College
We combine two approaches. On the one hand, we are a broadly based provider,
offering a range of opportunities for our local community. On the other, where we have
a particular specialism or work in a niche market, we’re quite happy to go further afield.
The growth can be fairly organic. When [our business advisors] go into an engineering
and print company, say, they might discover that the company has an IT training need
as well. When this happens, we respond to that, so the footprint of our IT provision
would just follow. College
For most colleges, reaching a greater proportion of local employers and expanding into new
Frameworks was a stronger focus than any geographical expansion.
At the moment, we have about 125 Apprentices with us. I would like to see about 300
to 400 Apprenticeships at any one time and expansion into some additional areas. We
are about to go into event management and want to get into the creative industries, as
there are a lot of arts and crafts businesses and artists in our community. We’d also
like to get into logistics and also to go more into management areas. We’re still very
interested in developing our offer to be as responsive to our local and wider community
5.2 Training Providers
Generalising about private providers is extremely difficult, due to the considerable
differences within this group, some of which may be national or international for-profit
companies, while others may be locally-focused voluntary organisations. However, in the
eyes of one spokesperson:
Private providers have been a major force in expanding apprenticeships in new areas
like business admin, front-of-house hospitality, social care and so on. Private providers
also tend to deliver across a broader geographical area, partly because they specialise
and make links with employers in their specialist areas across a wider area, and partly
because they deliver a greater part of the training at the workplace where possible,
rather than in a central location. Private Provider
Many private providers’ descriptions of their own experience echoed this sense of market
exploration and rapid adaptation to changing economic and policy conditions.
We were originally an engineering provider but we moved away from that and into
business admin and into customer services. This was down to a mix of things: the
general demise of engineering locally; the length of programmes and the cost of
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 29
setting up a training centre. We were having to work with the local college to get the
technical certificates done and, in the end, it just wasn’t cost-effective. We still work
with engineering companies, but doing the management and admin side of things.
Our main areas for Apprenticeships are plumbing, electrical and, more recently,
carpentry. We had a foray into plastering and dry lining, but aren’t going to be taking
that forward now, due to the economic climate. There aren’t the numbers.
Specialist Private Provider
About three years ago we decided to start delivering management qualifications, which
was a good move as it’s been a really good growth area. Private Provider
In terms of growth, the area that we have grown recently has been teaching assistants.
We’ve not really had sizeable growth in sectors other than that; it’s been very steady
growth. Of course we are looking for increased growth … (but) this is a bit of a
struggle, especially in some of the smaller areas, like beauty, leisure and youth work.
For many, apprenticeships are just one service, delivered alongside a range of other forms
of training, which may be fully or partially state-funded or delivered on an entirely commercial
Private providers are survivors and very flexible. They are also aware that they cannot
just focus on apprenticeship delivery. They need to diversify in order to be safe,
through doing more full cost recovery training. Now that we have QCF, employers are
able to pick out single QCF units that their staff need and just to pay for these instead
of a full apprenticeship. There is a growth in this activity that has surprised many
people. However, it makes sense from the provider perspective in that it’s very
sustainable. Private Provider
Our main sector is care and early years care, but we also have other subjects
including accounting, business skills, hairdressing and dental nursing. We deliver QCF
qualifications and higher level qualifications as commercial products, at full cost
recovery outside the apprenticeship Frameworks. The other thing we’re looking at
doing is introducing commercial products. We don’t want to be reliant on volatile
government funding. So, we’re looking at short unit clusters and awards that aren’t
government funded at all. Private Provider
In terms of overall volumes, Apprenticeship numbers have certainly increased. Since
I’ve been here, it’s doubled at least and I’ve been here for three and a half years now.
The growth is mainly because of our good relationships with local employers and also
because we do a number of commercial courses as well. Private Provider
This is also increasingly true of colleges. However, this point was a greater emphasis within private providers
descriptions of themselves.
30 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
All training providers, including colleges, are looking to develop long-term relationships with
employers, based on identifying and responding to the employers’ training needs in the
round. Apprenticeships are a central part of their offer and an extremely valuable focus for
developing new relationships with employers. However, it is the provider’s ability to deliver a
range of services, based on differing individual needs, that is central to their success. Any
attempt to increase volumes of one specific form of training, such as apprenticeships, needs
to be considered in this context.
5.3 The ‘level playing field’
The drive to increase apprenticeship numbers is taking place in the context of gradual
progress towards a Single Adult Skills Budget. A desire to free providers from unnecessary
restrictions, and to allow them to respond to employers’ and individuals’ demands, has led to
the progressive removal of restrictions on the type of training providers are allowed to
deliver39. As one College Spokesperson put it:
Historically, there were a lot of providers who had contracts only for Apprenticeships.
Then when the minimum contract value was introduced, those contracts ceased to be
Apprenticeships only, so the number of contractors who could deliver training in the
patch went up significantly. Before then it was only colleges. This market liberalisation
has introduced a lot of competition. Whilst you could say that is good for the customer,
it has also generated a lot more marketing ‘noise’, which makes it harder for
In the eyes of a couple of private providers:
It’s becoming a level playing field. With the single adult budget, we’re able to deliver
things now – adults learner responsive provision, i.e. classroom-based provision –
which we couldn’t do in the past. But it’s not totally level, in terms of money to build
new buildings or anything like that. Private Provider
I think we’re getting to a level playing field. They’ve opened up the budget this year to
allow us to do other stuff, but we’re still getting that up and running. There are still
some differences to how we’re paid, but it’s better than it was. Private Provider
These new flexibilities are enabling providers to extend the range of support they can offer to
people who are unable to access apprenticeships, as the example below shows.
This year is the first time we’ve had access to Learner Responsive funding … Learner
Responsive provision allows people who aren’t eligible for Apprenticeships - like the
unemployed, graduates, or those with no employer support - to access the same sort
To date, training providers have been contracted to deliver ‘Employer Responsive’ training, delivered in the
workplace. This is now changing. A Single Adult Skills Budget for colleges and other training providers will be
introduced from 2013 / 14. In the run up to this date, the SFA has been helping providers to prepare, by
introducing new flexibilities and awarding providers with both ‘Learner Responsive’ and ‘Employer Responsive’
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 31
of skills, though without the key skills elements. It’s mainly classroom-based, like
college provision. Accounting is a largely knowledge-based occupation, so there is
quite a lot of teaching involved in all our provision. Private Provider
5.4 Unitisation and the Qualifications and Credit Framework
The Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) will allow individuals to build qualifications
over time from multiple units. These may be state-funded, depending on individual eligibility
and, as a range of providers pointed out, they may be seen by employers as an attractive
alternative to apprenticeships.
Although still in its early stages, providers considered the QCF as a significant and generally
The QCF is good. The standards have just been introduced, so we need some more
time to see how this will embed for us long term…. we’re still designing and working
with it, but it is seen as an area for expansion. Employers might end up going for units.
Employers will start going for QCF units. We are looking at unitized provision carefully,
because employers want skills, while individuals want the qualifications that go with
the skills if they can. The challenge is to bind these two together, so both are happy.
Interviewees thought that the QCF could have a significant impact on apprenticeships,
although it was not clear how this would play out.
I think QCF could have an impact. It will give us the opportunity to sell in units
individually. I think employers will be quite likely to take those up instead of paying for
a whole Apprenticeship, though it’s an open field at the moment with regards to which
way it will go. Private Provider
I think what might happen is that employers will say ‘we’re going to do an induction
that lasts two weeks and will do a number of QCF units as part of that’. So, learners
might achieve some taster units before being signed onto an Apprenticeship or
diploma. It won’t stop them, but it will cut down the funding, due to the prior learning,
so the rest of the Apprenticeship would have to be delivered for less. Private Provider
If employers just want units, I don’t see this as a problem. Indeed it’s probably a good
thing. If an employee wants to add these units together to get a full qualification, that
too is good. There are advantages to each. You can’t complain about one approach
preventing the other. That is like trying to have it both ways. College Spokesperson
A number of providers felt that the QCF posed particular challenges for the delivery of Adult
32 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
I think, especially with employer contributions, employers may start looking at other
ways they can train their staff in the specifics that they want. The younger ones need
the whole qualification, but where you have employees with some experience, the
employers will think ‘I don’t need to lose them for one day per week for two years to
get those particular skills. If we just do this unit and that unit, it should cover it’.
A few identified circumstances in which the arrival of the QCF could support the delivery of
The Association (of Certified Chartered Accountants) have introduced a revised
qualification which they have linked to QCF and which can be done via an
apprenticeship. This could be useful and might enhance the numbers (of apprentices)
coming in. They have only been able to do this because of the introduction of QCF and
because they’ve worked the system. Private Provider
However, for a variety of reason, the majority felt that it would detract from it
In health and social care, employers now need to have ‘appropriate training’ and not a
fixed percentage [of staff] trained to a given level. This means that employers can now
choose the ‘appropriate’ level and proportion of staff who are trained. They just need to
justify this to the inspectors. So, we could offer QCF unit delivery and say that learning
about x and y is sufficient for this member of staff who is supervised by or working with
other people qualified to z level. This could affect Apprenticeship take-up.
Providers are conscious that apprenticeships are not, as is sometimes stated, ‘the only
game in town’. Policies developed by successive governments are moving the market for
qualifications, units and programmes in multiple directions simultaneously. The extent to
which these are mutually reinforcing or may detract from each other is not clear. However,
there are reasonable grounds to suspect that, as a potentially attractive alternative route to
upskilling, QCF may have a dampening impact on demand for adult apprenticeships and full
qualifications generally, in the medium and longer term.
5.5 Apprenticeship expansion and competition
The idea that apprenticeships are the ‘only game in town’ is usually used to convey the
notion that apprenticeships are the only programme for which increasing resources are
available and which providers can use to expand. This message was well understood by
those interviewed for this study.
The funding seems to be there at the moment if you want to expand. Private Provider
I’m not sure that funding is a constraint at the moment. If you say you want to do more,
you can generally get additional funding. College
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 33
The message is, however, nuanced by age.
At the moment, SFA have said there is potential to apply for money for growth. But
they have also said that the priority is for 16 to 18s and then for 19 to 24s. For the 16
to 18s, they have said ‘recruit with confidence’.
If it’s over 25s, it’s going to be harder. All the adult funding is in the adult responsive
budget. So, the basic message is that the preferred route within that [adult] budget is
Apprenticeships. Train to gain was supposed to be stopping in July. But we still have
the ability to use adult responsive funding as we see best to meet local demand.
This state of affairs was supported by other providers.
For 16 to 18 year olds and 19 plus, there is pretty much scope for expansion.
SFA have been very helpful in supporting us to expand. We didn’t meet our 16 to 18
contract last year. This year our [contracted] numbers were lower, because of not
hitting the contract last year. Then, following negotiations and seeing what we wanted
to do, they adjusted this back up to support us…The message we have from them is to
just keep going on the 16 to 18 year olds and not to worry. College Spokesperson
The expansion of adult apprenticeships, particularly for those aged 25 and over, is generally
being achieved by shifting funding into apprenticeships and out of other forms of provision,
notably Train to Gain.
SFA give you a contract allocation for each age group. For adults, it’s a single line
budget, which includes Apprenticeships, NVQs and QCF Units. There is an amount
ring-fenced for Adult Apprenticeships 19 plus within that budget and you can grow that,
within the overall budget. College
The money we had for Train to Gain now needs to be spent on something else, so
there is plenty of scope for Apprenticeship expansion within existing budgets.
Private Provider Spokesperson
For one private provider, this shift from Train to Gain into apprenticeships was nearly
The main limit to growth is the size of our contract. I can only deliver where I have
funding and at the moment, nearly all my contract money is going into
Apprenticeships. Private Provider Spokesperson
A further mechanism which is allowing for the growth of adult apprenticeships is the
reduction in the amount paid by the SFA per apprenticeship delivered.
34 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
The number of apprentices might be going up, but the amount of funding we get for
training each individual apprentice is being reduced. Private Provider
This is resulting in some providers facing a struggle to maintain the size of their SFA
contract, rather than grow it.
To maintain our contract, we need to grow numbers because the value per learner
keeps dropping. If we could get the learners in, we would want to be above contract.
We would welcome this for the future and I’m sure the SFA would give us the extra
funding. But, at the moment we’re under. Private Provider
While others, who could be expanding their apprenticeship numbers, are weighing up the
risks of doing so.
The factor hampering Apprenticeship expansion now is our SFA contract. In fact, we
don’t have the contract value to cope with the existing demand. One of our sub-
contractors has over 100 Apprenticeship places that can’t be offered because of the
lack of funding. We have asked SFA for increases, and for 16 to 18 year olds there is a
good chance we may get it. The problem is that we don’t know. This means that if we
want to expand, we have to do it at our own risk, hoping that others will under-spend
and we may be able pick up some of this. It’s a risky thing to do. So, our plan for this
year is to over-achieve by what we think will be a fundable amount. College
One college spokesperson observed that this risk was one that other providers were taking.
At the moment the issue is about market grab, because the worry is that when the
guillotine comes down, contracts will be frozen at whatever the market share will be at
that point. Hence the excessive number of national providers pushing into the area, as
it’s the only government budget area that isn’t capped at the moment. A lot of
providers are taking the risk of expanding apprenticeships, because if you don’t take
that risk you won’t get a bigger contract. You need to negotiate from a position of
strength, so it’s high risk. It’s lower risk at 16 and 18 because SFA are encouraging
expansion in that area, but every time government announces that they have found
another additional sum, it justifies the risk that providers are taking. College
What we’ve found in the last year, though, is that there is this mass scramble out there
for the Apprenticeship numbers. Providers who had sizeable numbers previously are
finding it difficult, because there are new providers or smaller providers trying to grow
their numbers, who are in competition. At the end of the day, there aren’t that many
more employers. If growth has come, it’s been in that employed status bracket.
Strategically, we may have been a bit slow to turn around and hit that target.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 35
This environment has led to a situation in which subcontracting has emerged as a valuable
mechanism for providers seeking to expand or maintain their contract volumes at a minimum
of risk to themselves. It is used by both colleges and private providers.
We’ve taken on some subcontractors elsewhere in the country in order to grow our
contract and we need to be better at working with them and helping them to grow their
business. Private Provider
Working with partners and subcontracting does reduce your risk, so it is a helpful
approach. Another way to reduce risks when you are expanding provision is to use
staff who are self-employed, so they get paid for what they do. This is in both our
interests. Private Provider
The practice is, however, also seen as presenting some difficulties.
Where contract volumes have been raised and colleges have had difficulty making the
numbers themselves, they have looked to sub-contract the provision to make up the
volumes. The subcontractors tend not to be established providers, but are often people
looking to break into the area, which can cause tensions and is now the focus of a
major tightening up of subcontracting delivery by the SFA. Private Provider
Another issue is where you get some providers who have spare capacity in their
contracts and who might under-deliver. There are commercial organisations who will
approach them saying ‘we can find you x number of Apprenticeship places, and will
help you fill these for a finder’s fee of £400 for each of your learners placed’. We need
to be mindful that the funding is there to help the learner. The more levels of
administration or top slicing there are, the less money is available for the learner.
Ultimately, this has to have an impact on quality. College
5.7 SFA Priority Sectors
Skills for Growth emphasised the importance of focusing apprenticeships in particular
sectors where investment will make the greatest economic impact. This does not appear to
be feeding through to providers to any great extent, at least as yet.
SFA don’t lean on us, in terms of what sectors we provide in. They are mostly
concerned about hitting the targets. So the focus of our discussion with them is looking
at volumes of delivery in each quarter to see if there is scope for growth or a need to
reallocate funding. College
The SFA haven’t really discussed the sector dimensions of our provision. College
36 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
Where providers have had discussions with the SFA about going into a new sector, they
have generally found the SFA supportive.
We don’t really have dialogues with SFA regarding strategic sectors or the need for
expansion in this or that occupation. However, if we want to go into a new Framework
area, SFA do need to be convinced that there is enough demand to accommodate an
additional provider. College
As far as breaking into new sectors is concerned, this is relatively straight forward with
the SFA. You explain what you want to do and why. If the SFA believe they need
another provider in that particular sector, the process is fairly swift, although
regrettably, much of that experience has gone and you now have staff who don’t have
the background or the time to spend really trying to work out what’s going on in a
particular area. Generally, though, with a sound business case which identifies
demand, and provided you aren’t looking for additional funding, then it’s easy enough
to move into new sectors.
The concerns expressed above, about loss of SFA capacity to lead on issues such as the
sector balance of provision, were echoed elsewhere.
I’ve always had good relationships with SFA (but) I expect less and less from the SFA,
as they are thinner and thinner spread. I really just need them to be responsive and
answer questions. I think it’s quite good that they are leaving us to develop our own
priorities now. It’s something we’ve all been banging the drum to get, but now we’ve
got it, it’s something we’re frightened of. It would be good if they gave us a steer on
LMI and sectors that they felt were important. Private Provider
Apprenticeships are a vital instrument for helping young people to make the transition from
school into the labour market and, by extension, for addressing youth unemployment.
However, providers argue, significant numbers of young people leave school lacking the
basic skills that will enable them to succeed on an apprenticeship and which employers
There needs to be a degree of realism. For some people, Level 1 is the level they are
at. Everyone should aspire to progress, but not everyone can do an Apprenticeship
direct from school, because the requirements are quite tough now. Private Provider
We need greater focus on the poor skill levels that some people going into vocational
learning have on leaving school. The level of numeracy and literacy for some of these
kids is particularly low, considering they have been in school for 12 years or so. Some
learners still can’t write a sentence without it being full of spelling mistakes. Every year,
the work place providers are still being challenged to address key skills, core skills,
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 37
functional skills etc because the learners have been let down in schools. And we’re
supposed to get this right in just one year. Private Provider
The programmes that providers have used to support this group have changed significantly
in recent years. Entry to Employment, aimed at 16 to 18 year olds who were ‘not ready to
start an Apprenticeship’, was integrated into Foundation Learning in September 201040.
Programme-led Apprenticeships, which provided full-time, provider-based vocational
education followed by work experience, came to an end in April 2011. Young
Apprenticeships, designed to give Key Stage 4 pupils (14 to 16 year olds) access to
industry-specific learning (in colleges) and extended work experience, came to an end in
A number of providers bemoaned the demise of these options.
We did have a very successful E2E programme, which had a target to get people onto
Apprenticeships. This was very worthwhile, partly because it was flexible on how you
ran it. Ours was very employment-focused, which worked well. College
The limitation recently has been the withdrawal of the Programme Led Apprenticeship,
which has had a big impact on the NEET Group. Private Provider
We’ve been running the Young Apprenticeship programme, but this is its last year. So,
although Wolf said she wanted to see more vocational provision at 14 onwards, it’s
going to end, which is an incredible shame as it’s been a really good programme for
young people. College
The Young Apprenticeships programme was fantastic, but regrettably they were
superceded by the Diploma, which fell at the first hurdle. It now means there is pretty
much nowhere for these youngsters to go if they feel that academic education isn’t for
them and instead they want to do something vocational. The Programme-led
Apprenticeships, where we had six months with non-employed learners to help them
find employment in a particular sector, has also been pulled. With both of these
programmes gone, it is no great surprise that youth unemployment has gone up as the
youngsters don’t have any viable skills to offer an employer. We only have two options
left now - the Foundation Learning programme and then the Apprenticeship.
5.9 Foundation Learning
Foundation Learning supports learners aged 14 to 19 who are at entry level or Level 1. In
the words of the National Apprenticeship Service, ‘Learners follow personalised
programmes, accredited through qualifications, designed to support young people to
‘Tailored to your individual needs’, E2E was flexible in duration and designed to enable young people to ‘try out
different work and learning situations’ while also providing them with motivation, confidence, Key Skills and Skills
for Life. See http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/14To19/OptionsAt16/DG_066260
38 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
participate, achieve and progress to positive destinations, thereby taking a step towards
maximizing their potential’41.
It is made up of three elements – vocational or subject learning, personal and social
development, and functional skills. The balance between these varies, depending on each
individual’s aspirations and needs.
The process is that every learner goes through an initial assessment. If they are at the
entry levels or a low level 1, they go onto the foundation level programmes. During the
six month Foundation Learning programme, learners undertake three sets of functional
skills, personal social development, employability skills and personal learning and
thinking skills, as well as Level 1 vocational provision. There’s a lot to deliver and now
learners don’t get any financial support since the EMA has gone, so the drop-out rate
is increasing. About 60% progress into work and a number of these become
apprentices. Private Provider
The fact that Foundation Learning is only for 16 to 18 year olds was identified as a concern
by a number of providers.
If they are 19 or over and at a lower level, there is nothing left we can offer them,
which is a shame. It’s an apprenticeship or nothing. Private Provider
The problem is that funding is limited to the 16 to 18 year old students. If you were 19
plus, you would be directed at some maths and English evening classes, though, of
course, if you’re on benefits, you could also do some training that way as well. College
And not all private providers offer Foundation Learning.
We don’t have 16 to 18 learner-responsive funding ourselves, which means we can’t
run full-time courses for young people. We would be very keen to do this… if we had
the 16 to 18 learner-responsive funding, then there would be a progression route. At
the moment we can only offer young people a place subject to finding employment.
This would change if we could offer the Level 1s. With the economy the way it is, not
all young people are going to get jobs with training, so you need other routes.
Colleges, and other providers with learner-responsive funding, can still offer a range of
choices to young people leaving school with few qualifications and no work, including
There are a whole range of different courses that young people can take up within the
college while waiting for apprenticeships to come up. These may include some work
experience. But, if they have their heart set on being in a work environment, this may
not be best route for them. We can’t do PLAs [Programme-Led Apprenticeships]
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 39
anymore, which they would have come on in the past to do their technical certificate.
Finding a balance between the individual’s and college’s own best interests is not always
Every summer, we have about 200 young people who would like to do an
Apprenticeship but can’t find a job in their chosen trade ... What we do is interview
them for the Apprenticeship programme and also for a full-time course as a safety net.
So, if they can’t find a job, they go onto a full-time course instead for another year and
then have another go. If an employer comes along half way through the year, they can
progress, but it’s a problem for your Ofsted assessment, because they go down as
non-retained and that affects your success outcomes … In that first year, we do quite a
lot of the technical certificate, so they don’t have to do that twice. But we need to
manage their expectations and keep them motivated. College
5.10 Access to Apprenticeships
On 12 May 2011, the Coalition Government announced the introduction of a new Access to
Apprenticeships ‘pathway’, for people who ‘need that little extra boost in moving into
employment as an apprentice’42. It is designed to help 10,000 young people, aged 16 to 24,
who are NEET or have ‘Additional Learning/Social Needs’; who are committed to pursuing
an Apprenticeship; but who cannot find an employer to take them on, due to their lack of
skills or experience. Participants will spend the majority of their time in the workplace,
proving their employability and aptitudes to prospective employers. They may complete the
key / functional skills or GCSE requirements of their apprenticeship during this period, but
not the full Framework. The funding has been drawn from within existing apprenticeship
budgets, which means that it is available to all apprenticeship providers, should they wish or
find it useful to deliver it.
Providers appear to be fairly sceptical about the value of the Access to Apprenticeship
pathway. They appreciate that it may suit some people, but are concerned that it could be
difficult to deliver and appears to be more of a response to high levels of youth
unemployment than a response to employer needs.
Everyone who has an Apprentice contract this year can also run Access to
Apprenticeship. We’re looking at this to see how we can take this forward. The
measure of success is that you get them onto an Apprenticeship within six months.
That’s quite difficult.
With Access to Apprenticeship,s you get funded when they start their Apprenticeship.
They are only allowed to do bits of the Apprenticeship training while they are on the
programme and they don’t get a training allowance, which switches quite a lot of
people off. You also need to remember that most people under 18 can’t claim JSA, so
NAS Website, ibid.
40 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
they won’t have any money. So, will they (16 and 17 year olds) sign up to it? I don’t
know. Private Provider
Sometimes they make the rules so difficult. Access to Apprenticeship is aimed at
people who are NEET for 13 weeks. If we can find an employer, we can provide them
with a work placement for 30 hours per week. The young person goes on drawing
down JSA (if they are aged 18 and over) and we can provide some teaching towards
their Apprenticeship. We can’t complete the Apprenticeship, but can do some units
towards it. We have to find people to go onto this. The obvious place to go is
Jobcentre Plus. But, we also have some of our own people who are out of work and on
our Learner Responsive provision. They would love to do it. But, oh dear, they are
suddenly classified as not being NEET, because they are doing our Learner
Responsive provision. So, to take up the opportunity, we would have to tell them to
drop the course and not do anything for a while and then come back. Someone who
works in the pub at the weekend also wouldn’t be eligible. And these are probably
exactly the people the employers would want, because they have initiative and are
trying to get on and improve themselves. What it says to you is that all the Government
wants is to improve the NEET figures, not do what employers need or what makes
sense. Private Provider
My idea would be to use the Access to Apprenticeships period to get the young people
through the functional or key skills elements and to hope that this will get them into an
Apprenticeship... But, the truth is that there are actually many other things we could
and perhaps should be doing that would benefited them much more, like CV writing,
job search and confidence-building as well as the numeracy and literacy. That sounds
more like Work Programme activity, but there is no Work Programme for 16 to 18 year
olds. There used to be things out there for them. Private Provider
Provider feedback appears to support the Wolf Report’s contention that foundation or pre-
apprenticeship programmes in England remain weak, often offering little by way of
We may keep them in education and training, but if they are doing one Level 1 after
another, you might question why we’re keeping them on anyway. Private Provider
There do seem to be a number of return-to-work type programmes, all focused on
chasing the same poor sods (NEETs) around. College
As one private provider spokesperson observed, ‘the fact that the Wolf review is firming
up the academic element of apprenticeships means that there will be less inclusion
through apprenticeships in future.’
If this is the case, it follows that there is an urgent need to ensure that there is a clear, robust
route through which young people who leave education without the basic skills can acquire
these and, over time, gain access to apprenticeships and employment. In the current
economic climate, employers have no need to employ poorly-skilled school leavers. It is also
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 41
easy to underestimate the level of employer investment required to bring young people up to
expected standards of behaviour and to pass on workplace values. The provider interviews
in this report support other voices43 calling for improvements to the quality of pre-
employment training and the creation of a clear, high-quality pathway to enable young
people to achieve the standards that employers would expect on entry to apprenticeship.
I think it would be good if we concentrated more on the 17 and 18 year olds so that
young people came into college for a period and then that led onto apprenticeships.
While we play around with Access to Apprenticeships now, there has never been a
really good structured programme to lead into apprenticeships. There needs to be a
more structured way of taking people into the workplace. College
5.11 16 to 18 year olds
The Coalition Government has prioritised expanding the number of apprenticeships for 16 to
18 year olds. Providers are acutely aware of the need to focus on this area and that financial
incentives exist to encourage both themselves and employers to do so.
We are focused mainly on the 16 to 18 year olds. A key driver for this is that employers
don’t need to support their training financially. We find that where employers have to
make a contribution… it is more difficult to get them on board. College
However, despite these incentives and providers’ best efforts, persuading employers to take
on young apprentices is proving difficult in the current economic climate.
We’re trying to see how we can increase the 16 to 18 year olds, as are all providers.
We’d all prefer to see more of these as there’s a lot more finance involved. The
problem is with the employers. Private Provider
All providers would love to have take on more 16 to 18 year olds, if they could, as
there is a 35%44 income drop at age 19 and a 50% drop at age 25 and over. Getting
the 16 to 18 year olds placed is the problem, because employers aren’t taking them
on. Private Provider
The reasons for this reluctance was explained as follows by one provider.
Right now, we’re finding that employers don’t particularly want to take on someone
who is 16 to 18. They have to pay them right away, and would rather take on someone
who is a bit wiser and more experienced instead of someone from school. With youth
unemployment being so high, this isn’t a problem for them. Private Provider
See, for example, Tony Dolphin & Tess Lanning, The Way Forward – Rethinking Apprenticeships, IPPR,
This statement appears to contradict the official advice, which is that there is a 50% reduction in the
competency and technical knowledge elements of the qualification. The Key Skills elements continue to be fully
funded. This may equate to something approximating a 35% reduction overall.
42 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
There are of course exceptions to this general rule. One provider pointed to sectors where
the culture of nurturing young people from an early age remained strong.
A lot of engineering firms with well-established apprenticeship schemes do like to take
them at 16 and nurture them from the word go. But they also do a significant college-
based course, possibly three days per week in the college first. College
This, however, was felt to be the exception to the rule. Generally, demand for apprenticeship
places among 16 to 18 year olds was larger than the supply.
This year, we have more young people looking to take up Apprenticeships than we
have places available. College
With the 16 to 18 year old apprenticeships, there aren’t the volume of job opportunities
we need. College
This state of affairs led a number of providers to question the viability of NAS’s aspirations
for growth among this group.
NAS’s aspirations towards growing the 16 to 18 group isn’t that much under our control
as it’s the employers who are deciding who they want to take on. It’s not really possible
for us to influence this. Private Provider
Basically we’re stuck with training the people employers are prepared to recruit and,
on the whole, our employers recruit A level school leavers. They are pretty hesitant
about recruiting GCSE school leavers, which makes the scope to expand 16 to 18
provision very limited. Private Provider
These difficulties, alongside the financial incentives to raise adult apprentice numbers,
means that increasing 16 to 18 year old apprenticeships is one priority among many.
We’re certainly conscious that 16 to 18 provision is the priority for the Government and
it’s a priority for us as well in some senses, though we remain very keen on promoting
apprenticeships for adults too. College
I think providers are just trying to get whatever business they can, whether it’s 16 year
olds, 24 or 50 year olds. Private Provider
The fact that the drive to increase apprenticeships for 16 to 18 year olds coincides with a
decline the size of this age cohort was noted by a number of providers, particularly colleges.
These providers tended to be concerned about the potential impact of the decline on their
institutions as a whole.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 43
The aspiration still is to recruit as many 16 to 18 year olds as possible. But the
demographics don’t help us at the moment. There are going to be fewer of them for a
while, so all colleges are going to be struggling to recruit 16 to 18 year olds compared
with the past. College
Another issue is the fact that the 16 to 18 population is falling right now, so all
providers in the city are competing over a smaller number of young people. We all
have targets - schools, mainstream FE and for Apprenticeships. In fact, there’s almost
internal competition within the College. The YPLA plan had a target for approximately
20% growth of apprenticeships over the life of the plan, set within an overall ambitious
target for growth in the number of 16 to 18 year olds engaging nationally, all within a
smaller cohort. You can end up wondering if the sum of the targets is higher than the
sum of the young people. The important thing, though, is to focus on doing the right
thing for the young person. If you carry on doing that, you’re onto a winner, because
it’s about them ultimately. College
One private provider noted that, given the decline in young people, providers may be
increasing their 16 to 18 year old apprentice numbers by recruiting young people who were
already employed onto apprenticeships.
The demographic trend is such that there aren’t actually enough young people to
expand youth apprenticeships massively. Apprenticeship providers are working with
ever smaller numbers of 16 to 18 year olds. A lot of the recent success in growing
apprenticeship numbers has been by converting Jobs without Training into Jobs with
Training. Private Provider
While this may be highly desirable, it will also not immediately result in a reduction in the
number of young people who are NEET.
5.11.2 Future policy on 16 to 18 year old apprenticeships
The providers interviewed for this study were conscious of operating in a dynamic
environment and that they would need to adapt to changes in patterns of demand that would
flow from these policy changes.
With EMA going, you’d hope there would be increasing demand for apprenticeships …
now, with university fees, there’s a hope that it will increase further, but only time will
tell. Private Provider
Raising the Participation Age will have a significant effect on apprenticeships in future.
The percentage of young people staying on in school and FE is going up. For
example, in Plymouth, there have been 11 consecutive years of rising proportions of
young people staying on in full time education. Private Provider
Others were anticipating changes to flow from the Wolf Report.
44 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
I also think … that the climate we’re moving towards now is one where the focus will
be up to 24 and in which 16 year olds can come and get their skills on a full-time
course first and then go and do apprenticeships. There are no courses in schools that
really enable them to be work ready, so I think we’re moving away from pushing 16
year olds into work. Other people do have other views though. College
In the back of my head I could see 16 to 18 Apprenticeships only being available
through colleges in future, because they are now talking about introducing GCSEs as
part of Apprenticeships. They have separated the funding bodies, so I don’t know if
they are thinking of keeping the youngsters in schools and leaving private training
providers to do the adults training. Private Provider
There is a lot of uncertainty in this area. While the analysis of the private provider quoted
above might lead them to conclude they should focus their attention on adults, others private
providers anticipated that the need to focus on 16 to 18 year olds would only grow in future.
In the longer term, we are going to have to shift to the 16 to 18s; we know that now.
A little more clarity on the direction of policy, if such clarity exists, would be welcomed by
5.12 Adult Apprenticeships
Two of the Private Providers interviewed for this study observed that:
We tend to get a lot more 19 plus apprenticeships, just because they are the
people who are working; and
It’s easier to recruit and place people aged 19 and over, but the funding isn’t
These quotes pick up on the two principal issues relating to adult apprenticeships: that the
expansion of apprenticeship numbers is largely being driven by existing employees taking up
apprenticeships; and the Government gradually reducing the amount of funding it provides
for these types of apprenticeship.
It is, however, important to make the distinction between apprenticeships for those aged 19
to 24 and those aged 25 and over.
5.12.1 19 to 24 year olds
A number of providers were anticipating that the loans for Higher Education (HE) would
result in a rise in apprenticeships among people in this age group.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 45
There is an increase in demand from students. Whether this is due to the introduction
of fees in higher education or work done to promote Apprenticeships isn’t clear.
We are yet to see the full effects of the changes to HE tuition fees… I expect that, over
the next 12 months, we will see applicants who would have looked at the HE route
turning to apprenticeships. College
However, 18 to 24 year olds looking at apprenticeships as an alternative to HE are only part
of the market and, as one provider put it:
There is an important argument to make about apprenticeships for 19 to 24 year olds
who may have lost their way, bounced about in and out of work or earning, and only
then found an occupation that suits them where they want to develop their skills.
Many foresaw funding for adult apprenticeships being increasingly focused on this group.
What looks like happening now, especially with the introduction of loans, is that we will
see funding increasingly being geared to 18 to 24 year olds. This means that the
recent increase in numbers, which is largely about existing staff over a certain age
taking up apprenticeships, is likely to come to an end. College
And, at least one spoke of their support for such a focus.
It seems to me that they should make the Apprentice Framework 16 to 24 and not
muck about. The idea that if you’re 19 and one day, you have to pay a lot of money
and if you start two days earlier than that, then you don’t, that doesn’t make sense. I
think they should be funded for all 16 to 24 year olds. College
5.12.2 People age 25 and over
As pointed out in section 4.2, the recent rapid rise in apprenticeship volumes is mainly due to
providers delivering far greater numbers of adult apprenticeships.
A couple of years ago45, Government decided that Apprenticeship provision could be
accessed by the over 25’s. Before that it was only up to 24. In the first year we were
allocated around 30 over 25 starts. A year later it was opened up to all and since then
adult Apprenticeships have grown incredibly. They now make up 48% of our total
In the short term, providers could see scope to continue expanding in this area, at least in
the short term.
The decision to lift the age limit on apprenticeships was in 2004, which, given the long history of
apprenticeship, remains recent.
46 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
I’d say that our plans for growth are pretty ambitious, especially in the adult market.
The demand for apprenticeships is growing. College
Employers prefer employing people aged 25 and over. They are simply more work-
ready. Therefore, until you get the introduction of loans, which is planned for 2013/4,
providers are going to go on expanding older Apprenticeships. Once the loans come in
the numbers are likely to hit the wall and drop significantly. Private Provider
Whatever the future prognosis, providers clearly viewed adult training as being immensely
important, for a range of reasons.
I think it’s great if employers invest in their staff and decide that employees should do
an apprenticeship, even if they have been working with them a while. Private Provider
Adults who are already in the labour market … definitely benefit from Apprenticeships.
They think ‘I’ve got to get a qualification if I’m going to be able to compete and
progress’. Private Provider
When you get things like changes in legislation, it means that people do have to
retrain. Private Provider
If a Training Officer comes along and says ‘why not employ [your part-time/casual
staff] full time as an apprentice, yet pay them the same because they are training part
of the time’, we shouldn’t be too dismissive of this. It is creating opportunities and
contributing to the formal development of people on the periphery of the businesses.
Although the value of training adults was universally agreed, more than one provider
questioned how well it sat with the traditional notion of ‘apprenticeship’ or wondered about
the role of targets in stretching the brand.
We do think there is value in an adult apprenticeship programme, though the
apprenticeship brand doesn’t work very well with the adults. They are not particularly
comfortable being called apprentices, so we call it the ‘Adult Skills Boost’ instead.
Back in the 80s, apprenticeships were really about providing a way into work for young
people, particularly in some occupations. Recent policy, which has extended
apprenticeships to include the upskilling of people already in employment, has
changed that. This may result from chasing targets, but it’s important to remember
that upskilling people in work is a valuable aim and activity, so we shouldn’t be too
critical of that. College
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 47
5.12.3 Train to Gain
As discussed, government is giving training providers increasing flexibility over what they
deliver with ‘employer-responsive’ funding, while simultaneously encouraging providers to
focus on apprenticeships.
A number of providers recognised that being responsive and delivering what employers want
may not always be compatible with growing the volume of apprenticeships.
We have spoken for a long time about the need to have apprenticeships in the 25 plus
bracket. Then the funding arrived at the same time as Train to Gain and what we found
was that, under Train to Gain, the Level 2 NVQ was more desirable than the
apprenticeship route. It’s still possible to do a Level 2 NVQ only within the adult skills
budget, under work-based delivery. This can be a limiting factor for the expansion of
adult apprenticeships, as some employers can be more interested in the NVQ only.
We had a really big T2G contract that we had to deliver at the same time as expanding
Apprenticeships. For us, this was a bit of a conflict. Private Provider
There’s been a sort of Train to Gain lag, with free Level 2 NVQs still available for now.
So right now, you still have a choice of getting a Level 2 NVQ free via Train to Gain or
paying £500 for an apprenticeship. College
As the quotes above imply, providers appreciate that this state of affairs may be temporary
and also, being more demanding and focused on skills development, that apprenticeships
have some advantages over Train to Gain, at least for learners.
Apprenticeships are much more involved than Train to Gain. It isn’t only an NVQ.
There’s the technical certificate and functional skills. The ones we do also require
people to be released from work for one week at a time throughout the year, so it’s
quite intense. College
Another provider argued that making state-sponsored training more demanding may put
some employees and employers off training.
The idea that Apprenticeships are a sort of beefed up Train to Gain – there is probably
a degree of truth in that. The NVQ is there purely to prove competence over time and
all industries need that. But what is now being done by all providers, because there is
no Train to Gain, is to bolt on the industry-specific technical certificate and the key or
functional skills. But someone who is 45 may not see the benefit of Maths and English,
despite the fact that they may need it … The changes can mean that some people who
might have benefited from Train to Gain are being pushed to do qualifications for
which they don’t see the need, and neither do their employers. This means that more
people, who maybe should have been doing the NVQ only, don’t make the grade
because it’s too complicated and success rates will suffer. Private Provider
48 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
The question of how demanding government should be and where it should set the bar for
those seeking state funding is a nuanced one. In general, one would have thought that
provider self-interest would incline them to argue for state sponsorship of all forms of training
- NVQs and apprenticeships - as with the example above. It was interesting, therefore, to
note that more than one provider saw the shift of funding from Train to Gain to NVQs as not
just a rise in standards, but also as grounds for broader optimism.
The cynical side of me says this [rapid growth in adult apprenticeships] is short termist
and the priorities may change again. The more optimistic side says government has
changed emphasis, from trying to get as many people Level 2 qualifications as
possible, and that the emphasis now is more on skills and training. It’s not so much
about competency - can you do this or that and get a level 2? - it’s more about
upskilling and training. College
5.13 SASE Requirements
The Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE) was introduced in
The standards specify that all apprenticeship frameworks must be made up of at least 37
QCF credits, of which at least 10 must be competence-based and 10 must be knowledge-
based. The other credits are awarded for gaining ‘functional skills’ in English, ICT and Maths
and for demonstrating competence in a range of generic skills, such as team-working, self-
management, creative thinking, reflective learning and effective participation.
Depending on agreements with the relevant SSC, these functional skills can be achieved at
a lower level than the overall framework. This means that the functional skills gained by
those doing a Level 2 apprenticeship may be at level 1, i.e. below grade C at GCSE.
SASE also stipulates that apprenticeships must include a minimum of 280 guided learning
hours a year, 100 of which should be ‘off-the-job’. This is roughly equivalent to one day a
week of guided learning over 36 weeks, of which two hours a week would be off-the-job
learning. Although this represents an increase in ‘teaching’ compared to Train to Gain, the
level of input in UK apprenticeships remains very much lower than that which would be
expected in countries such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Provider perspectives on SASE tended to be rather split.
There is a general recognition of the value of SASE as a mechanism for raising
apprenticeship standards and ensuring consistency of content and quality across providers.
Quality is controlled through the SASE framework and normal awarding
body/verification procedures and inspection by Ofsted. The number of delivery hours is
dictated by the SASE framework and all providers are audited against this, so no-one
can stray very far from the central quality requirements. College
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 49
Some providers pointed out that many learners benefited from the broader focus, on
knowledge-based and functional skills, as well as technical competence.
The advantage of Apprenticeships is that not only does it relate to their current job, but
there are techniques or theory included that can help them ... There is also the grade A
to C English and maths, and we do find a lot of adults don’t have the level at the
acquired standard. College
Other providers argued that making apprenticeships increasingly demanding might act as a
brake on their expansion.
SASE Frameworks can also act as a bit of a limitation to expansion, mainly because it
requires an awful lot more delivery... When you sit down and talk with an employer, as
a high quality provider, you’d explain to the employer that they would need to release
candidates for longer than they would have previously. We can sell this. It’s not
insurmountable. But it is a limitation in that you do have to sell this. Private Provider
If the government keeps adding more and more requirements to the Framework, like
personal learning and thinking skills, it’s going to make life more and more difficult.
None of this is ever funded. We don’t get additional money. Plus, a 45 year old might
easily think ’why would I want to do that?’ which could result in a drop in demand. The
employers just want the qualification. They don’t mind about the key skills, functional
skills and so on. It isn’t designed by the industry, it’s designed by government. It looks
like Wolf will take things further this way. Private Provider
There is bound to be a tension for providers here. One the one hand, providers identify that
apprenticeship growth could be achieved by only focusing on job-specific skills that
employers want. One the other hand, the majority also appreciate the importance of
safeguarding apprentices’ future employability, by contextualising this job-specific training
within a wider body of transferable skills and knowledge.
The current criticism of Train to Gain, as focused on the accreditation of existing skills, the
shift of resources into apprenticeships, the introduction of SASE and the new qualification
requirements for all tutors46, all signal a desire to raise training standards. As the
Conservative peer, Tim Boswell, has argued:
‘Skills’ should encompass more than simply the ability at any one time to perform
a narrow technical task to an acceptable standard. In a mediaeval craft or guild
system, that might have been acceptable, but today’s labour market and society
Most providers have been improved the quality of training in recent years. The fact that all staff must now be
qualified, with PTLS, CTLS and DTLS training, is part of this. The difficult bit is finding people with the sector
experience who want to train and then getting them fully qualified. This takes both time and significant
investment. Private Provider
50 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
demand an ability to adapt to technical and social change and a degree of
confidence to shape or influence the process oneself47.
It is important, at least in the opinion of the author of this paper, that the pursuit of increased
volumes or targets is not achieved at the expense of quality.
The topic of apprenticeship ‘quality’ is vexed and multi-faceted.
International comparisons, explored in Section 3.5 of this report, suggest that UK
apprenticeships tend to be delivered more quickly at lower qualification levels and with
significantly less off-the-job training than in many other countries. However, as suggested in
the previous section, government is aware of the need to make progress towards
international best practice and that this progress will be incremental, building our own
particular national context.
Providers are acutely conscious of the drive to raise standards and tend, naturally, to
acclaim the quality of their own provision.
I think quality has tightened up a lot recently and is better now than it has been in the
past. It’s strong and robust and employers have a big say in terms of the assessment
and outcomes for learners. Providers are having to work very hands-on and are having
to come up with the goods. When someone finishes an apprenticeship with us they are
definitely ready to work. College
They also point out that it is the quality of their overall training offer that employers tend to
judge and that this extends beyond the delivery of apprenticeships.
As far as employers are concerned, we don’t have to put their staff on apprenticeships.
They can choose NVQs if they like. The task is to identify the gaps in people’s skills or
knowledge and put the appropriate package in place. For us, the key thing is to know
what their expectations are and what improvements they are looking to see at the end.
The thing employers want to see is a link between the training and improvements in
productivity, waste reduction, lowered staff turnover and so on. At the end of the day,
when we go back and review what’s been done, those are the sorts of things we
This is important in that the drive for apprenticeship growth represents an effort to increase
the delivery of one specific and increasingly rigorous model of training among many.
Selecting the right option for the employer and individual was repeatedly highlighted as a key
to delivering a ‘quality’ experience alongside ensuring that employers are completely clear
about the expected employer input.
Tim Boswell, Advanced apprenticeships: Progression routes in vocational education, Rethinking
Apprenticeships, IPPR, Nov 2011, p. 86
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 51
Explaining the requirements of apprenticeship to employers is a crucial part of the
quality process. You have to set expectations, in terms of the support, training and
range of experiences they need to provide to make sure young people complete the
qualification. Then of course you monitor this. College
Some providers pointed out that pressure to deliver apprenticeships was bringing an
element of pressure into this relationship and negotiation.
There are always going to be issues with ensuring that employers are doing the right
kind of training or the kind that people want. Employers do tend to want
apprenticeships to be effective really fast, so there is a negotiation there. College
Raising the quid-pro-quo or the demand that state-sponsored training should focus on long-
term employability and individuals’ capacity to progress beyond the tasks immediately at
hand is entirely justifiable and probably very sensible. However, as many providers pointed
out, there have been occasions where the alignment of employers’ interests, providers’
commercial interests and the Government’s interest in achieving targets have led to a less
than optimum outcome.
5.14.1 Accelerated Apprenticeships
The delivery of ‘Accelerated Apprenticeships’, sometimes in as few as 12 weeks, provides
an example of how this nexus of interests has, on occasion, essentially corrupted
negotiations between employers and providers, to the detriment of individual learners. These
fast-track apprenticeships were almost universally decried as examples of poor practice.
Another related issue is that of providers offering ‘fast-track’ Apprenticeships, over a
period of 12 weeks. The guidance says that people must get 280 guided learning
hours, but it doesn’t say over what period. So you get examples of provision where
young people are fast-tracked through the process without the quality really being
there. The young people come out of ‘training’ without really being qualified for work
only to find that they have missed out on what could have been a great opportunity.
Thankfully this was rare. The vast majority of providers were bitterly opposed to it and
raised objections. From their perspective, this kind of practice didn’t just undercut their
efforts but was a serious threat to the whole image and reputation of apprenticeships
overall. Private Provider
I don’t understand how someone could do an apprenticeship in 12 weeks or how they
could get away with it in the eyes of Ofsted and the awarding bodies. Private Provider
An Apprenticeship is about someone becoming competent in a job. If you knew
someone had done an apprenticeship in 12 weeks, would you judge them as
competent to fix the brakes on your car? If someone is already competent and you’re
accrediting their [existing] skills, that isn’t an Apprenticeship. They should be thinking
about an NVQ. College
52 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
The origins of the Accelerated Apprenticeship lie in the desire to be flexible and to get away
from the notion of time-serving. One provider of a six-month apprenticeship argued that rapid
delivery could be appropriate in some cases.
We got a letter from the SFA about Accelerated Apprenticeships because we have a
course that lasts about six months. It’s for A Level school leavers who aren’t ready to
go straight onto Level 3 and feel they need a basic Level 2 as a starting point first.
Because they are able to cope pretty well academically, we think we can get them to
do it faster, in six months. There is the same amount of work there. It’s just that they
and we have to work harder to deliver the same GLH but over a shorter period. This
has been recognised by Ofsted as providing outstanding flexibility to employers and
learners, but is at risk of being questioned as appropriate by the SFA. Private Provider
But, for most providers, the concern was to ensure consistency of quality and safeguard the
reputation of apprenticeships.
I think people who do deliver in 12 weeks are actually devaluing apprenticeships.
Comparing like with like is essential for the reputation of Apprenticeships. You do
sometimes have to ask ‘are they all at the same standards?’ College
5.14.2 Consistency between Frameworks
The argument about consistency goes beyond Accelerated Apprenticeships. A further issue
picked up by a number of providers concerned differences in ‘standards’, or at least
durations, between Frameworks at the same level, but for different occupations.
I don’t think there are many issues about quality consistency in Construction. The
requirements of a plumber at Level 2 or whatever are pretty standard … I think there
are sometimes issues about the content of different Apprenticeship Frameworks.
There’s a fair difference between a Level 2 in plumbing compared to one in admin.
Employers might have someone complete one in 14 months and then wonder why it
takes someone else two years to do theirs. Private Provider
The fact that not all apprenticeships are equal and some require more time, input, equipment
and technical knowledge is recognised in the way that they are funded.
Are all Apprenticeships equal? Well, no, some are more highly technical than others,
with a higher skills base. These take longer to deliver, which is recognised by the
amount of funding you get for each. This can vary quite significantly, even if the
qualifications are at the same level. College
If you want to maintain the standard, it’s important that there is flexibility in the funding.
There is talk about unifying the funding for all Frameworks, so you’d get the same rate
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 53
for Engineering or anything else. This might reduce hairdressing, which is really
expensive in terms of materials and salons, but it would also catch engineering in the
There can also be a bit of an issue about differences between Frameworks. Some are
so reliant on the competency-based elements that they lose some of the academic
rigour - in hospitality, the technical certificate and work based competency elements
are one and the same thing. College
The issue of whether all apprenticeships are of equal value or whether, from an economic
perspective, the focus should be on growing volumes in particular areas, such as technical
apprenticeships in ‘traditional’ areas such as engineering, is an important one for the LEP to
consider. We touch on this later. However, because of their own strengths and interests, it is
difficult to get any consensus from providers on this. The LEP may, however, wish to take up
the point about maintaining funding flexibility for different Frameworks as a tool that it might
use in order to shape local provision.
5.14.3 Off-the-job training
The variable amount of off-the-job training delivered by different providers, or rather, the
balance of this and on-the-job training, was a further quality-related issue, raised mainly by
colleges. Unsurprisingly, providers tended to advocate or defend their own particular delivery
We’ve got Grade One from Ofsted and are confident we’ve got a quality product… Our
formula for success involves day release, while a lot of our competitors do everything
on-the-job, standing next to the worker, with distance learning rounding off their
training experience. We take them away and have what we call ‘realistic working
environments’ - an automotive workshop where they can practise and develop
technical skills – so employers can see a real elevation in skills levels … I’m sure we
lose some businesses because of insisting on this, but our teaching staff insist on
doing it this way and we feel sure that this contributed to both the Grade One from
Ofsted and the high level of employer satisfaction we achieve. College
I do have some concerns about some other providers who appear to be able to offer
apprenticeships without any teaching whatsoever. I don’t see how that is possible.
These (SASE requirements) are massive now, with lots of guided learning hours.
We’re going into care homes and want to take people out to develop their work-related
knowledge while we are also aware that there are other providers offering to deliver
the same apprenticeship without taking them anywhere. That is a worry. The issue
here is about consistency of standards. Private Provider
54 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
Those delivering mainly or entirely within the workplace tended to emphasise the need for
flexibility and to tailor training to the needs of individuals.
In terms of the amount of time tutors spend with each person, that’s pretty
individualized. It depends on what they need and how long they have been doing the
job. They always have help available by skype, e-mail and by phone. Private Provider
In theory, SFA performance measures, SASE and Ofsted inspections should result in similar
standards across providers. However, the extent to which these mechanisms are really
effective in maintaining standards was still questioned by some providers.
It’s difficult to comment on the quality of other people’s provision. The SFA have a lot
of statistics, on achievement, timely achievement, retention and so on. All this supports
quality delivery and SFA certainly monitors it and adjusts contracts if people perform
poorly. But you can still get situations where you have a provider who gets all its
learners through in a timely fashion, achieving all its outcomes, but without the training
quality really being there. The sort of thing we’re talking about is 12 week reviews done
over the phone and not amounting to much more than a quick ‘hello, is everything ok?
I’ve even heard of instances where people don’t actually realise that they are on
Apprenticeship programmes. Ofsted should pick this sort of thing up, but it doesn’t
stop it happening. That might be the extreme, but the wider point is that there needs
to be consistency, in terms of both the depth of training and how the performance
criteria are assessed. Having the ‘Ability to provide an appropriate response’ involves
a lot more than being able to say ‘good morning’ to the customers. Employers need a
consistent understanding of what an Apprentice at Level 2 or 3 is capable of. College
From these interviews, it would appear that there is still some way to go to achieve
consistent, high-quality apprenticeship delivery across the region. The question of whether
the combined influence of SASE, the SFA and Ofsted is sufficient to identify and eliminate
poor practice, is beyond the remit of this study. One would hope that it is. However, as
argued above, the reduction in staff and capacity at SFA may lead to a decline in their ability
to impact on this at the local level. The possibility of SFA becoming increasingly remote and
focused on ‘quantitative’ management should be a concern for local partners. Whether it is
possible to engage Ofsted in local partnership working may be worth exploring.
5.15 Converting existing staff to Apprenticeships
In her Review of Vocational Education, Professor Alison Wolf argued that:
Any apprentice for whom an employer receives funding should, indeed, be
engaged in broad learning, and not just on-the-job training or standard training of
the type received by regular employees other than apprentices. Although their
age profile is not available, a considerable number of apprentices are on
‘Business as Usual’ apprenticeship schemes, in which some people on a
company’s normal training programme are apprentices, whereas others are not;
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 55
but there are no differences in the training received. It is difficult to see why some
employees should have their company-specific training paid for, simply because
they are designated as apprentices48.
A significant number of providers appeared to share this view.
With companies providing skills to their own staff, they have basically mapped their
own training programmes against national standards and got an assessor to check this
off. It’s highly likely that they would have done this anyway. Our off-the-job approach
really raises the skills standards for UK plc. This is the essence of the argument.
Another major issue is that of large companies that are converting their existing
training programmes into Apprenticeships. This gives a massive boost to the
Apprenticeship numbers while not actually achieving much for the local economy and
often diluting the quality of the delivery. Private Provider
The concerns that we have relate to the fact that a lot of large employers are now
using Apprenticeships as a way of upskilling people they already have in their
organisations. This can be fine in concept. Often it’s very valuable. But it blurs claims
like ‘we have 100,000 more apprentices this year’, which may be due to organisations
using apprenticeships to train existing staff. College
Nearly all the providers interviewed for this study were involved in delivering training to
existing company staff who had converted onto apprenticeships. They certainly saw a
need for programmes to upskill staff already in post. The concerns they had were
about the quality of some of this delivery and whether pursuit of targets was leading to
‘brand-stretch’ and detracting from the delivery of ‘real’ apprenticeships.
Of course there should be opportunities to train existing staff, but should that be part of
the Apprenticeship model? Private Provider
I think there is some truth in people seeing the funding opportunity, knowing they have
the criteria in their workforce and using it. If they can show that there’s real upskilling
and progression to higher level skills, then that’s fine. But if it’s like the old Train to
Gain thing, where you’re qualifying people for the job that they have been doing for the
last 20 years, well, did they move on after that or did that affect the bottom line of the
For me, the concern is that we may lose the message that Apprenticeships are a way
into work, a way to gain skills and to become competent to do an occupation. College
I don’t think there anything wrong with converting existing employees into apprentices.
It provides people with opportunities. The only issue is when the Government goes on
Review of Vocational Education – The Wolf Report, DfE, March 2011
56 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
about how many extra places they’ve got, when it’s not actually the youngsters who
are trying to get into work that they are talking about and who really need help.
The expansion of apprenticeship numbers through the conversion of existing employees
onto apprenticeships appears fraught with difficulties. The providers interviewed for this
report could see a case for state support for programmes that enabled employees with low
levels of qualifications to acquire skills that would enable them to progress within their
existing workplace and in the labour market more generally. They did not see the logic for
calling such training ‘apprenticeship’ and felt that a policy of expanding numbers in this way
might stretch the definition of brand, to its detriment.
5.16 National training providers
A further issue of concern to local providers was the upheaval and consolidation in the
provider market place and the increasing influence of national training providers. The trend
towards national contracting was seen as a threat to delivery in rural areas, potentially
detrimental to local strategic planning and, by extension, a potential obstruction to the
influence of the LEP.
This year, the SFA introduced minimum contract levels, which were set at £0.5m. This
has resulted in a range of buy-outs, mergers, development of new consortia. It is
creating upheaval in the market. You even have international companies coming in to
buy up training providers. General Physics’ acquisition of Ultra is an example. But
there are risks in this approach. One concern is that large profit-oriented organisations
are highly likely to focus on urban areas, where they can get economies of scale.
There is a real risk that rural areas will be ignored. There is already some evidence of
this. Also, as there are no geographical allocations of Apprenticeship funding, these
same economies of scale may also be found in other more heavily populated parts of
the country, such as the Midlands and so money that had originally been earmarked
for the South West can, after a takeover, end up being spent in London.
SFA strategy at the moment is that where providers have a certain level of SFA
contact, it’s up to them to decide how to use it. This demand-led approach makes a lot
of sense, but you can get problems. Like, if you have national providers coming into
the region and then pulling out of the region, their SFA contract isn’t changed to reflect
this. You do get this. For example, there’s a sub-contractor that we work with who was
in a situation recently where suddenly a national organisation pulled out of the area.
Our sub-contractor was suddenly in a position to pick up that provision and take on a
lot of learners, but couldn’t do this because of our SFA contract size. Meanwhile the
national provider kept their contract value and presumably delivered that training in
another region. College
The big increase in national providers coming into the patch is a concern. A lot of LEP
employers will have relationships with these national providers. I’ve seen situations
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 57
where you’ve had nationals coming in and we’ve lost employers that we’ve had for a
number of years, based on the product that nationals are offering. I wouldn’t question
the quality of this, but there can be some differences in the delivery models. You also
wonder about motives of the national provider - is it financial gain or are they engaged
in it for the benefit of the LEP area as a whole?
In the past, with the LSC, there was quite a local closed market with a limited number
of providers. Now that the focus has shifted to the national level, it’s more difficult to
talk about how you manage growth and the balance of provision. It’s is a bit more of a
They are only ever going to come in and cherry-pick the bigger customers, who may
like the idea of working with a national provider. Probably won’t pick up the SMEs and
definitely not the micros, who won’t have the volume of learners to make it worthwhile.
National contracting was frequently linked to the issue of existing employees converting to
apprenticeships (discussed in the previous section). This is because large national
companies and chains often find it most convenient to work with a single national provider.
Retail has predominantly been using national providers. Not just supermarkets but
chain clothing companies. Chains usually choose a national training provider. Private
There could be a problem caused by national contracts. They could impact eventually
on both quality and the portability of qualifications. You have to ask yourself, ‘If it’s
about training for that company, how relevant is that going to be for others?’
I worry that some big companies with national contracts are expanding massively in
the short term in ways that may not help their learners in the long run. They may
provide easy hits in terms of achieving targets, but you need to ask: ‘what is the impact
of this on the individual?’ ‘how much are their skills and employability really being
improved?’ and ‘how might it affect their entitlement to future training? ... For me,
Apprenticeships ought to be about helping to get young people into employment;
helping them to achieve the standards needed for the initial job and then to be able to
progress from there. College
A considerable number of interviewees also raised questions about the quality of training
delivered by national providers, which they allied to their motivation for being in the market in
the first place.
For larger providers, it can be just a numbers game which can take the
professionalism out as it’s driven by process. That’s what the big providers are about -
assess and get out, being efficient and ticking the boxes. Or, they rely heavily on the
58 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
professionalism of their assessors to care on the ground, but at the centre it’s all
process. Private Provider
The targets that were there for staff were really stretching and, in terms of the delivery
method, it was definitely a business, it wasn’t learner-led. Staff had to complete x
number of visits per week and had a certain amount of time to get learners through.
Traditionally, you’d work out the expected length of stay with each learner and make it
flexible. Now, with these companies, it’s set at a given period of time. Private Provider
There is one massive international company, for example, who are buying out as many
local providers who have contracts with 16 to 18 learners as possible. What they are
looking for is companies that have 60% of young learners and a turnover of over £2m.
These are the ones that are most profitable. I don’t think the effects of this are going to
be good, at least in the long term. I know their methods. Their recruitment people are
set targets and are only interested in getting people on board and making a quick
buck. In fact, I wonder if they will be around in a few years’ time. The company I’m
thinking of about hasn’t been Ofsteded yet. Private Provider
One provider also expressed concern that the major national providers may have an undue
influence on the content of Apprenticeship Frameworks, which may not serve the interests of
an area with many small employers.
Nationally, on a political level, the whole issue of national providers is more of a
concern, simply because you suspect that they (national employers) will have a say on
how Apprenticeship Frameworks develop in the future. They will have more impact on
the Frameworks than anything else, especially in some sectors like engineering, retail
and auto. This may be fine for a multinational but may not suit a painter and decorator
in Ilfracombe. College
However, interestingly, despite all these concerns, interviewees rarely identified national
providers as a significant direct threat to their own local business. The comments below
We’re pretty isolated in North Devon. There are a few national businesses with a local
presence and a few apprentices, but it doesn’t have that much impact on us. College
I don’t think there is the scale of opportunities to warrant it in this area. Private Provider
The policy around national providers doesn’t really affect us. We’re a local provider.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 59
5.17 Employer contributions
As set out in section 3.2, employers are expected to make a significant contribution towards
the costs of all apprenticeships delivered to people aged over 18. This rises with employer
size and apprenticeship age.
This is good for both quality and accountability. But there is a big problem. The rule is
that you have to ask employers for a contribution, but it doesn’t rule out the possibility
of training being provided if you don’t get one. The result is that you get cheap, poor
quality providers who are basically offering to provide training for free. This is
undermining the market and the reputation of Apprenticeships generally. There are
some providers with 100 trainees per member of staff. Private Provider
The big issue is that the funding we receive for each Apprentice is falling. It’s being
cut, in line with the age of Apprentice and the size of employer. In theory, employers
are supposed to make up the difference, but in reality, they don’t. They negotiate,
which puts a lot of pressure on us. What we’ve found is that we’re getting less and less
resource and are having to work harder and harder to make the same amount of
money. Private Provider
Providers adopt different strategies for coping with this situation and they are clear that
these strategies have implications for the quality of the provision.
We have quite a robust contribution. My view is that we have good, tried and tested
employers who invest in their apprentices and are prepared to pay for the high quality.
We do experience situations where employers don’t want to pay. But, when that
happens, you have to question how much commitment they have with the scheme.
The assumption is that employers will pay half. Some small private training providers
aren’t actually getting these contributions, while the college providers have been trying
to play ball and charge in line with government expectations. This liberalisation could
be regarded as good or bad, depending on what side of fence you are on, but the risk
is that it devalues the product and you get variability in terms of the depth of training
and quality. From there you get to all the issues about uncertainty as to what an
Apprentice is or should be capable of? College
We ask for employer contributions for all over 25 starts49. You just can’t deliver without
these. The big problem we have is the competition and the amount that other national
or even international training providers are asking for, presumably because they are
subsidizing it themselves. Employers are supposed to pay 50% of the cost, but there’s
no way we can charge that. We have to come to a balance. What happens is we get
employers saying ‘this national provider has offered us the same training free of
It’s worth noting that employers should be providing a contribution towards the cost of all apprenticeships
started by people aged nineteen or over. Whether this was a slip of the tongue or this provider sometimes waives
contributions for the 19 to 25 group is unclear.
60 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
charge’. Even employers within our group can end up going to them or using them as
a way of knocking our charges down. Private Provider
Providers are developing ‘business strategies’ to cope with this situation.
In terms of getting the employer contributions, we set different fees for the different
levels. It’s cheaper at Level 2, because we want to get the employers engaged and
prepared to pay a higher fee at Level 3 and 4. Private Provider
These strategies can involve providing whole-organisation solutions.
Our approach here is to look at training needs of the employer as a whole, to look at all
staff. Some might have to pay full cost and some might get partial or full funding
depending on their age and qualifications. We have to manage the delivery of that.
The growing proportion of Apprenticeship training that employer might have to pay is
part of that picture. As you can imagine, this approach is rather a lot be easier with
large companies than small ones. College
And they can involve using funds received to train some groups of employees to cross-
subsidise the costs of delivering to others.
This growth in over 25s is now something of a problem, because they are so poorly
funded. What you end up having to do is use the higher levels of funding for young
people to cross-subsidise the cost of training older people. Private Provider
Clearly, concepts of individual entitlements become somewhat blurred in this scenario.
The problem, according the provider quoted above, is that:
Employers are expecting more from a provider than they should. The employer should
be as or more involved in the training than the provider. My worry is that inspectors
may still come to us and hold us responsible for that training, but if the government is
only paying us for doing the smallest amounts and it’s up to the employer to do the
training, then it’s not really right for Ofsted to hold us to account. Private Provider
Others may disagree and argue that, to maintain quality, it is the responsibility of the
provider to be scrupulous about demanding the correct input from the employer and to
withdraw or be held to account if this is not forthcoming.
The difficulty is that the current ‘market-oriented’ system allows for multiple delivery models
in which employers take on differing levels of responsibility for undertaking the training
themselves. At one end of the spectrum, large national employers may contract directly with
the SFA, deliver all the training themselves and just buy in a limited number of services,
such as external NVQ assessment, from a training provider. For SFA-contracted training
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 61
providers, there is a negotiation about how the responsibility for delivering training is shared
between the provider and the employer, and who bears the costs of delivering it.
Although this ‘flexibility’ could be seen to have some advantages, it was very clear that the
current situation was regarded as highly unsatisfactory by the majority of interviewees. In the
eyes of one:
It’s a mess at the moment. If the Government said ‘everyone must pay x amount and
there’s no way out of it’, then employers would pay. If there’s a contribution ‘in kind’,
that’s always a get out for providers. Just clear direction on that alone would be really
useful. But I don’t think they (Government) would come out and say it. Politically it
would be difficult as employers might well refuse to pay and then we’d see numbers
drop dramatically. Private Provider
5.18 Level 3 apprenticeships
The Government has identified ‘reshaping of apprenticeships so that technician level – Level
3 – becomes the level to which learners and employers aspire’50 as a national priority. Level
3 apprenticeships are the norm across much of Europe, but account 32% of all
apprenticeships in HotSW. A focus on growing provision at Level 3 and encouraging
continuing development along established progression routes is supported by a wide range
Interviewees were well aware of this, but quick to point out a range of difficulties involved in
expanding the proportion of delivery at Level 3.
Providers are very focused on the need to expand at Level 3. Five years ago, 81% of
Apprenticeships were at Level 2 and only 19% at Level 3. Next year it’s going to be
50%/50%. It’s going to be a challenge, especially when you bear in mind that there are
many occupations, like construction, care and chefs, where you have to do Level 2
before you can progress to Level 3. Private Provider
There isn’t a target for levels. There is a push on Level 3 at the moment and a notional
model of a 50/50 split between Level 2 and Level 3. The problem with growing Level 3,
though, is that for many occupations, the learner needs to have some kind of
supervisory role … There are also areas where you can’t just jump up to Level 3
without doing a Level 2 first. The issue here is about progression and talking to the
employer about taking young people up a level. This can take time. You can’t just put a
Skills for Sustainable Growth: Strategy Document, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
(BIS), Nov 2010
It is however also important to bear in mind the that young people change jobs, occupations and their sector of
employment relatively frequently and, in the words of the Wolf Report, ‘the young person who follows first a level
2 course in a vocational area, then a level 3 one, and then goes on to a long-term career in that sector is the
exception not the rule’. The argument in the Wolf Report to flow from this is that it is therefore important not to
take too instrumental a view vocational training and to ensure that young people following such progression
routes also learn skills that are transferable to other occupations and sectors.
62 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
16 year old learner on a Level 3 Framework which involves supervision. It’s not about
their academic ability or about their ability to do it in the longer term. It’s often just
about their age and maturity. College
One college spokesperson pointed to the structure of their local economy, which has large
numbers of low-skilled jobs and jobs with SMEs, as a barrier to growing Level 3 provision.
Creating Level 3 jobs and higher is very important, because there are very few Level 3
jobs in the area. A lot of small businesses don’t have the scope to allow apprentices to
do the range of the work required to gain the NVQ (at Level 3), they don’t have the
breadth of the work. This can be a real concern. Government policy to get everyone to
Level 3 doesn’t align with the reality of SMEs. College
And, as another college pointed out, there are difficulties involved in trying to drive up
delivery at a specific level within a market-driven system.
We are moving from a system under the previous government when we had to do so
many of these and so many of those. Now SFA are saying, ‘here’s your budget, deliver
to meet the needs in your area’. I can’t necessarily gee more employers up to get more
Level 3s for young people in a certain sector. I can do marketing and mail-shotting. But
if the demand isn’t there, you’re not going to deliver it. College
Perversely, however, the current economic climate, in which employment opportunities for
young people are scarce, may be helping to raise the proportion of Level 3s being delivered.
I think the balance is moving more towards Level 3 though, mainly because providers
are finding it so difficult to find apprenticeships for the 16 to 18 year olds, who are the
people who traditionally would have started at Level 2. Private Provider
Right now, we even have some employers coming on saying that they may have to
make Apprentices redundant… This hasn’t affected our Level 3 starts, because these
are mainly to do with progression. Private Provider
This is, of course, far from desirable, and points to the need for caution or at least a degree
of sophistication when setting targets or interpreting progress towards them.
The ideal, viz an employer who is able to offer a variety of occupational roles and
progression routes that enable young people to acquire skills and move to increasingly
skilled and well paid employment, is not altogether uncommon.
If the job role allows people to progress, then it’s fairly natural for the employer to take
people forwards. Private Provider
And it is clearly one that is well worth supporting. The integrity of providers, dedicated to
working with employers to develop a nurturing culture that supports the development and
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 63
progression of staff, young and old, is clearly an issue here. It is for that reason that provider
concerns about ‘market players’ need to be taken seriously.
5.19 Higher Apprenticeships
In his contribution to the recent IPPR publication, Rethinking Apprenticeships, John Hayes,
Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, declared that:
I want many more apprenticeships to be at higher levels, up to degree level and even
above. The government has announced a higher apprenticeship fund, worth £25m,
which will support up to 10,000 more advanced and higher apprenticeships.
Creating more progression also means making the barrier between higher and further
education more permeable. If learning is to be really lifelong, the road for any
individual from basic skills to higher learning – not necessarily provided in higher
education – must be as accessible as possible….
The Government also announced support for the development of a new degree-level
apprenticeship linked to professional recognition for successful apprentices when they
graduate. The government has committed to expanding higher apprenticeships across
all sectors from current numbers (around 1,500 starts in 2009/10)…52
For providers, getting involved in the delivery of Higher Apprenticeships is a common
We see Higher Level Apprenticeships as a growth area, particularly in business admin
and management admin, where there is a lot of interest at the moment.
Higher Level Apprenticeships is something we will be looking at carefully. College
We see this as an opportunity and have already put some development work in it. Our
offer will probably be in management and administration, as there’s definitely potential
to increase numbers in these areas. We haven’t started any learners yet, but are doing
market evaluation, developing delivery plans and so on, so we can put something in
place in future. Private Provider
For some, delivering Higher Apprenticeships does not represent an expansion into an
entirely new area of work, but a development of work that they are already doing.
The progression routes are well established in many areas. In business, IT or
engineering, we have always worked on the basis that people will do a Level 3 and
then move onto a foundation degree or an HND. We’ve always seen these
John Hayes, Restoring the Worth of Apprenticeships, in Rethinking Apprenticeships, IPPR, November 2011, p.
64 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
qualifications as equivalents of a higher level apprenticeship and so have employers.
The introduction of Higher Apprenticeships will validate this approach. College
Effectively we’ve been delivering these on a full-fee basis for the last 10 to 15 years.
They just weren’t called Higher Apprenticeships. We also delivered this under Train to
Gain. The difference now is that we’ve turned it into an apprenticeship, slotting the
Framework around the same skills that people have always needed to learn.
Many were quick to point out that it was still early days for the delivery apprenticeships at
There won’t be much Level 4 this year, as the funding arrangements with HEFCE
aren’t sorted out yet. There won’t be much growth in Higher Apprenticeships until
2012/2013. Private Provider
Many higher level Frameworks have yet to be put in place.
For now, there aren’t really any Level 4 frameworks in place yet. This will grow slowly
and is something for the future. College
The recent tendering exercise to develop and deliver Higher Apprenticeships was
STEM related. This doesn’t fit well with our own profile, which is mainly in business
A number of colleges had joined consortia that had submitted bids to develop Higher
We are part of a consortium which has made a bid to the SFA, to develop and promote
Higher Level Apprenticeships in engineering, business, IT and food manufacturing.
At the moment, we are mainly offering Level 2 and Level 3 Apprenticeships. We do
have a bid in to do a Level 4, as providing progression routes is an important part of
the work we do. College
Private providers are able to join the consortia developing Higher Apprenticeships, but, as
one private provider pointed out, they would require a sub-contract from a college with an
HE contract to deliver the qualification they were involved in developing.
A lot of people are looking for Level 4 and 5 training, but we can’t get the funding as a
training provider for Higher Apprenticeships. If we want to access funding to service
our employer,s we would need to subcontract funding through an FE college incurring
a management fee in the process. Recently there was the opportunity to apply for
development funding for Higher Level Apprenticeships, to set up the resources, write
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 65
the programmes and do the necessary development; but then there would be no
funding to actually deliver the qualifications which would mean employers paying
commercially or us subcontracting to HE. HE can, of course, do this development work
safe in the knowledge that they will have funding to deliver them. Private Provider
This is an issue that also impacts on some smaller colleges.
We work closely with [employer name] and would like to expand and offer Higher Level
Apprenticeships to their staff. But at the moment we don’t have a contract that enables
us to do this. Some people might be able to go on to a foundation degree and in theory
we could move them on to another provider, but we don’t want to do that. The
Apprentices get used to working with us. They know what to expect and how things
operate here. The employers don’t want lots of relationships with different providers,
who work in different ways. So it’s far better if you provide some stability. College
5.20 Growth Opportunities
As part of this research, providers were asked whether they could identify any specific
opportunities to expand apprenticeship numbers. Responses mainly focused on geography
and sectors, although some other factors, such as the small proportion of employers
currently involved in apprenticeships, were also mentioned.
The proportion of employers who take up apprenticeships really isn’t that great, so
there has to be room for expansion. Private Provider
5.20.1 Geographical Opportunities
Unsurprisingly, providers identified the principal large-scale economic developments within
the patch as the key geographic opportunities to expand apprenticeship numbers.
Exeter is a huge opportunity, with Skypark, Cranbrook and all the opportunities locally.
The College’s new technology academy at Monkton is a reflection of our investment to
support this. It’s engineering and automotive that’s being built there. College
Cranbrook is definitely an opportunity. The fact that renewables need to be used there
is also an opportunity. We think that the contracts (to build Cranbrook) are going to say
x many young people will need to be apprentices, so that’s an opportunity. Plus there’s
the opportunity to train the contractors themselves in those skills which we can look to
provide commercially. We’re fortunate here, in that we have a good split between our
commercial and government-funded provision. Private Provider
Hinkley C is a big opportunity. We’re still waiting for planning permission though the
feeling is that it will happen and is going to take over the area for a significant time.
People compare it with the Olympics and Channel Tunnel, but it’s much bigger than
both of those.
66 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
The DHL Morrisons packing plant and distribution centre should be an opportunity.
We’ve been doing a lot of work with the unemployed and getting the workforce in there
and will be doing more on warehouse operations, logistics and so on to make that
There is also quite a lot of regeneration happening, with new housing projects and the
transport links that go with that. College
We have a focus on the Atlantic array and are working closely with Regen SW to see
what opportunities are going to come out of that. It’s hard to see what exactly these will
be at the moment, but there might be a maintenance centre with 250 jobs and some
opportunities around that. College
There are opportunities around all the potential construction projects in the area, such
as the South Devon relief road. If any of the big housing projects happen, like the new
town near Langage or the housing associated with Exeter Growth point, this will give
us an opportunity to expand on the construction side. College
5.20.2 Priority Sectors
Providers were also asked whether they had plans to expand in specific sectors. During the
interviews, a number of providers identified that this question may have been included in
order to support HotSW LEP in considering whether to encourage growth in certain
economically important sectors. They therefore made some general observations about
priority sectors, which are worth considering before moving onto their own plans, which are
outlined in the next section.
There have always been priority sectors. Providers are used to being asked to focus
on x or y sector. But the policy hasn’t been rigidly adhered to in the past. In the past,
we’ve had RDA priority sectors, which didn’t always sit well in a particular locality.
We’ve also had LSC and SFA priority sectors which haven’t been the same as the
RDAs; add Area plans and city priorities and it has been a recipe for confusion. The
advent of the ESBs, LEPs and NAS created an opportunity to bring this focus
together, but in reality what has happened is along came the recession and pressure
for apprenticeship expansion, the brakes have come off, the priority sectors have gone
out of the window and we’re into a numbers game. Only when there isn’t enough
money will there be a focus on priority sectors again. It’s going to be up to the LEP to
be clear and consistent about this. Private Provider
Annual SFA allocations are only broken down by age, not by framework area. Within
this the SFA doesn’t appear to concern itself outwardly about what sectors you provide
training in. That stance changes when you get beyond your allocation. If we were to
go to the SFA and say that we’re going to need funding to £600k not £500k, that is
when the conversation starts. If we’re growing in STEM or in the city or regional
priorities, this growth has a much better chance of being funded. College
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 67
From a public expenditure point of view, I’m not sure that you really get your money’s
worth training hundreds of hairdressers. But from the young person’s point of view,
there’s a problem, which is that the priority areas tend to be the areas that young
people don’t want to do. So if we say ‘you all have to train to work in the care industry’,
you’d get a lot of people voting with their feet. Clearly the balance of provision
shouldn’t be totally student led, but having said that I’d be against saying that we’ll only
train so many in this or in that. It’s probably a circle that can only be squared with
carrots and not sticks. College
5.20.3 Sector-based opportunities
It is difficult to come to any firm conclusions about providers’ responses on this topic. Some
were already sectorally focused, with the result that their responses concerned opportunities
within the care sector or construction sector alone. Some described themselves as mainly
market-led, following patterns of demand, rather than attempting to drive these in any
particular direction. Others pointed out that providing a rounded service to employers in one
particular sector usually involved delivering a whole range of different Frameworks anyway.
If you want to support a sector like engineering, you’ll find that you need to deliver a
whole range of qualifications to people in a whole range of different occupations in the
companies in that sector. It’s not just about engineering qualifications. It’s complicated.
Some could identify ‘niches’ or sectoral gaps in the market that were ripe for development.
During business planning, it became apparent that there were very few suppliers
offering security Apprenticeships. As a result we changed the way we deliver it, in
order to be able to meet demand from further afield. College
Others were developing a sectoral focus through tie-ins with major companies.
We’ve also got the link with Mulberry and (provide) apprentices training to make
leather bags, which is a good opportunity. College
Sectors that were identified as offering good growth opportunities by a single provider
included: lab technicians; classroom assistants; stage lighting; HGV driving; and floristry. In
some cases, this was partially due to apprenticeship frameworks having fairly recently been
introduced in these areas.
Growth sectors identified by more than one provider are listed below.
Health, Social Care and Childcare
Eight providers identified these linked sectors as ones in which they were looking to grow.
Some providers linked this aspiration to local economic and social needs.
68 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
Health and social care is also an opportunity, given our demography and having many
care homes and a large NHS in the area. We’re one of the first offering Higher Level
Apprenticeships in Health and Social Care, which can be mapped to a foundation
Others related it to the scale of the potential market and to national policy to develop that
The NHS is a huge potential market. We’re currently looking at working with three NHS
Trusts. Private Provider
In terms of sectors, health is quite a big area for us and an area where we get as
involved as we can. It’s also an area where there is a big national push. College
Many identified the regulatory requirement to train as key driver for employers in the sector,
both large and small.
Other markets have growth potential, especially health and social care where there is
a lot of legislation being put in and a lot of companies that need to come up to speed.
The same is true in childcare. Safeguarding legislation means more independents and
one-man bands need to come up to speed. Private Provider
It is also clear that employer demand is not the only factor in looking to grow provision.
Longer term, we’d like to expand the care into childcare, which is a better area for 16
to 18s. Private Provider
Care remains an attractive market for school leavers, especially girls and whilst we do
work to reverse these kind of gender stereotypes, a lot of traditional ideas about job
roles do prevail. Private Provider
One provider, with extensive experience of the sector already, was looking to develop their
provision for specific occupations within the sector as new Frameworks are introduced.
Some of the work we are doing with clinical health will develop further… We are
looking at developing some other Frameworks in some of our areas, like medical
secretaries ... There aren’t really any specific economic development opportunities…
It’s more a question of whether to deliver new Frameworks, like medical
administration, where we know there is a market that isn’t that well developed yet [for
example] there is one NHS Trust that is looking at contact centre Apprenticeships,
which would sit well with our customer service provision. Private Provider
Sport and youthwork were also identified as areas for growth by more than one provider.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 69
Creative and Media
Creative and media was identified by colleges as an area for growth, in response to high
levels of demand for apprenticeships from individuals and the introduction of new
Frameworks for the sector.
We don’t feel we’ve developed enough in terms of the creative industries. College
Another area we’re looking to develop is creative and media. Locally we have quite a
lot of employers in these businesses and there is plenty of demand from students. The
job is going to be convincing the relatively small businesses that they really could take
on Apprentices. College
We’re … moving into some of the emerging industries that wouldn’t have thought of
Apprenticeships before, like technical theatre and creative and digital media. In
creative and media, employers traditionally just went to graduates, so Skillset have
introduced the new Frameworks deliberately as a new entry route and we’re
responding to that. College
Hair and Beauty
Despite the common discussions about whether there is an ‘over-supply’ of apprenticeships
in the sector, Hair and beauty was frequently identified as an area of continuing growth.
The number of people on Hair and Beauty Apprenticeships continues to go up. You
wouldn’t have thought that demand was going up, what with the recession. But there is
still demand from young people and opportunities being offered by employers, so the
numbers rise. College
There’s still growth within hair and beauty. People seem to still be spending money in
this area, regardless of the recession. Private Provider
Retail, Hospitality and Travel and Tourism
These sectors were frequently mentioned, not so much as areas of success, but areas in
which providers had made efforts to expand, out of a recognition that they are strategically
important, employ large numbers of people and currently have low penetration rates.
We’re managing slowly to expand our provision for hospitality and tourism. It’s still
pretty modest right now, but it is growing, so I think we’re winning the argument - that a
professional chef can make a real difference to your business, for example. College
Travel and tourism is always quoted as a sector seeing economic growth, but without a
corresponding increase in apprenticeship numbers. College
70 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
Retail is perhaps one of our most unqualified industries, with each company having its
own training scheme which doesn’t match anyone else’s. A lot of people working in
this sector have qualifications from other related sectors, like hospitality, business,
customer service and so on. College
In one case, the difficulties encountered in delivering retail apprenticeships were such that
the provider withdrew from the sector.
In retail, we had problems with a transient workforce. The number of people who were
dropping out or moving from one job to another in hotels or catering was so high we
made a decision to move out of that sector. Private Provider
Perspectives on the prospects for apprenticeship growth in engineering were mixed. One
provider identified strong growth in this sector.
We grew our provision in the last 12 months and it’s looking positive this year as well.
There are good numbers in engineering, where we have doubled the number of starts.
While another identified economic conditions as a barrier to anything more than incremental
Engineering industries are struggling a bit right now. People aren’t buying new cars
etc, so we can’t see these growing by more than five or six percent for the next couple
of years. Private Provider
It is hard to draw much in the way of conclusions from the few comments received; however,
in general the opportunities for growth tended to focus on sectors where apprenticeships are
relatively new, rather than those with a tradition of apprenticeship.
Two providers saw traditional apprenticeships in construction as expanding although, in the
main, discussions around construction focused on renewables.
Expansion into renewable, environmental and low carbon technologies was the single most
frequently mentioned growth opportunity, identified by a majority of interviewees.
In terms of priority sectors, low carbon is new and exciting and a lot of people will get
into that; just look at the number of companies doing solar roof panels.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 71
But many providers also identified this as an emerging market - an opportunity for the future
- and an area of provision yet to achieve a critical mass.
Renewable energy should be another good area to go into, though what they’ve just
done with the feed-in tariff suggests that it may not be as big area as we thought it
would be. There may be opportunities related to the Green Deal, but we’re still looking
at what exactly these will be. Government is working out the detail. Private Provider
If we’re honest it’s happening, but it hasn’t happened quite yet. People in the industry
are thinking and seeing that it’s coming, but it’s taking time. This isn’t because there
aren’t the trained people. It’s more to do with public confidence. Private Provider
While some new Frameworks and qualifications were appearing, interviewees frequently
stressed the need to adapt existing qualifications and re-skilling of existing staff.
We trained about 250 electrical and plumbing Apprentices in the last year and know
that people in these areas will need to re-orient themselves to survive. So, for us,
renewables is a development of an existing strength and an opportunity for people
working in this sector to develop their skills and employability, and to gain additional
work in an expanding sector. College
Until recently, the green qualifications were stand-alone qualifications. Now we are
seeing some as units within advanced plumbing and so on. You can’t just come along
and think ‘I’m going to do solar-thermal’. You need a Level 2 in plumbing first. It is an
area we are looking to develop much further, with a dedicated workshop area...
A number of providers were working with their employers to identify skills needs and shape
new qualification Frameworks for specific parts of the sector.
We’re working with the SSC and looking at how to develop a Framework around
sustainability, bringing together our electrical and construction Apprenticeships, along
with retro-fit. College
We’ve developed a number of higher-level training programmes in the area of
composites, including the underpinning knowledge which is an important part of
delivering these Frameworks. We’ve done this with the National Skills Academy. The
issue at the moment is that we don’t know exactly what will be in Frameworks when
they come out. The bidding process does allow us to influence the content to an
extent. It’s important to be part of that because, in effect, in developing these
Frameworks, we’re involved in convincing employers that they need to change their
materials and the way they work, particularly employers in supply chains with many
72 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
5.21 Factors limiting apprenticeship growth
In addition to exploring perceived growth opportunities, providers were asked to identify
factors that they saw limiting apprenticeship expansion.
5.21.1 Economic conditions
The most commonly cited barrier to growth was the state of the economy. The following
responses were typical.
What we really need is the economy to pick up. Right now, people are trying hard not
to recruit and to make do with the staff that they have already got. Private Provider
The general plan is to grow in all areas, though that’s difficult with the economic
situation being what it is. There just aren’t many employers taking lots of staff on at the
moment. Private Provider
Some providers pointed to differing impacts in different parts of the economy.
The economy has made a difference in some sectors, like motor vehicle and
construction. The impact on some other sectors, like hair and beauty or care, has
been smaller. College
5.21.2 Economic conditions and young people
It was also clear that the economic downturn is particularly affecting young people’s chances
of entering employment through an apprenticeship.
The main constraint at the moment is the economy. It’s just not creating that many jobs
or Apprenticeship opportunities for young people. College
There is a huge amount of demand for Apprenticeships from young people. The
stumbling block is employers. There aren’t enough of employers who are willing or
able to offer jobs with Apprenticeships. College
We… have more 16 to 18 year old applicants on our books than we have vacancies.
This is especially the case in engineering and the traditional apprenticeships. Here we
can be putting 20 to 30 applications in front of an employer for a vacancy. This is
largely because the industry is being squeezed and at times like this they look at
training differently. They see it as a cost because they need to appoint a mentor, who
may need to stop what they are doing to explain it to an apprentice ... Some employers
used to take on groups each year, but we have found the groups are getting smaller or
they may say ‘we’re not doing one this year’. Private Provider
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 73
What we’d like to do is increase our provision for the 16 to 18 group, who are still fully
funded … but this is difficult because employers are just not recruiting. Normally you’d
have firms who take on a set number of people every year, but that’s not happening at
the moment. This means that the age of our apprentices is getting older and older and
consequently, the funding level per learner has been getting lower and lower.
While declining recruitment of 16 to 18 year olds may be causing financial difficulties for
some providers, it may also be helping to drive up the proportion of apprenticeship delivery
that is at Level 3.
I think the employers are being quite cautious at the moment, but having said that we
had our best recruitment during the year last year. This September, we had rather
fewer new starts than we would have expected, especially at Level 2 [due to]
employers coming to us, saying they don’t have the work, that’s the issue. Right now,
we even have some employers coming on saying that they may have to make
apprentices redundant, which we thought had calmed down since the recession. This
hasn’t affected our Level 3 starts, because these are mainly to do with progression.
This, once again, points to the need for a sophisticated interpretation of delivery data.
5.21.3 Bureaucracy/slow introduction of Frameworks
A number of providers complained that the bureaucracy involved in delivering
apprenticeships could act as a constraint on delivery.
The bureaucracy can also be a problem. College
In particular, they identified difficulties in getting new Frameworks developed and approved
as a constraint and argued for additional flexibilities, to ensure that the Frameworks matched
the realities for some people’s working lives, such as seasonal workers.
The system can be quite rigid and slow to introduce new qualifications… We are
looking to grow in the area of environmental sustainability and green skills. This should
be a clear strategic priority for the LEP, but getting the new frameworks in place is very
slow. It’s becoming something of an obstacle. College
The real constraint is the inflexibility of the Framework. If want to get more young
people, you need more flexibility, for example, having a Level 1 Apprenticeship or
doing them as part qualifications for people who work seasonally. Sometimes the
Framework doesn’t fit the reality of people’s working lives. College
74 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
It is interesting to note that spontaneous citations of bureaucratic obstacles were infrequent
during this study, while a quantitative oriented LSC-funded survey53 identified ‘Level of
administration (bureaucracy)’ as one of the most common constraints to apprenticeship
growth. Whether this is due to differences in survey methodology or changes since 2009 is
5.21.4 Financial issues
Providers were quick to cite a lack of funds as being a limit to apprenticeship growth.
Concerns were expressed about reductions in the level of funding received per apprentice.
Funding has to be the main one [constraint to growth]. If full funding were extended to
19 to 24s or even to 21, that would really help expansion, because you’d be pulling on
the more work-ready. At the moment, we’re having to do more for less... College
One of the big challenges is funding cuts ... The volume of learners goes up but the
unit cost, at least for adults, comes down. We’ve also had all the QCF and SASE
changes which mean that there is more that we need to do within the Framework…
Each year of course costs, rents, salaries, mileage etc goes up and this is an industry
in which you can’t control your prices, which means we have to get smarter about
delivery, i.e. less time, with fewer visits, better use of technology, e-portfolios and so
on. Running a profitable organisation, while improving standards for less and less
money each year, is certainly a challenge. Private Provider
Concerns were also expressed about the costs and risks involved in expanding into new
geographical and Framework areas and the losses that can be incurred where providers fail
to attract sufficient Apprenticeships to make expansion cost-effective.
There are now more than 200+ Frameworks. The key issue for providers is to get the
economically-viable numbers required to start to deliver a new Framework, to make it
worth marketing it and so on … Providers need a sense of security - that it’s worth
investing in new areas. For example, one provider started delivering apprenticeships in
Estate Agents. This took time and investment. Then along came the recession and
every Apprentice lost their job. It nearly took the provider as a whole below the
minimum performance level. It’s safer to focus on the sectors you know and it can be
a brave decision to go into new sector areas. Providers are probably more likely to be
looking to grow provision at new levels, i.e. Level 3 and Level 4, within sectors that
they know, in which they already have the employer contacts, rather than necessarily
expand into new sectors. Private Provider
Critical mass is also a big hold-back if you are going into a new area. Expanding an
Apprenticeship programme is a struggle when you are a small rural provider with lots
of sole traders around. The amount of effort and energy it takes to get one Apprentice
Apprenticeships: Understanding the provider base: LSC, April 2009
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 75
is probably about the same as the amount it would take to get five or six at a larger
firm. The amount of effort that we have to put into the outreach work is a big issue.
This issue, of how difficult it can be to achieve ‘critical mass’ in a rural area, was picked up
more than once.
We‘re happy to deliver in employer premises, but to go to North Somerset for, say, one
learner just isn’t cost effective. You can’t pay all that travel for one assessor to do all
those trips. You do need to have a critical mass. That’s not to say we might not set up
a centre in Somerset at some point. We opened the centre in Cornwall 2 years ago,
but we need a critical mass of Apprenticeships to make that a viable proposition.
Capital and equipment costs can be a further financial constraint for providers expanding in
technical Frameworks, where their approach involves delivering off-the-job training.
If you have an employer saying ‘we’d really like to look at delivering Apprenticeships in
this sector’, so long as we have the numbers and think it’s sustainable in the long term,
we can do it. There can be some barriers in terms of things like equipment. Some
Apprenticeships are very technically based and require a substantial capital
investment. So you need to think, ‘what employers do we have to support this, in what
volumes, are they here for the long-run, is it sustainable?’ College
Staffing issues were cited as a potential constraint to expansion.
Getting staff with specialist occupational skills can sometimes be difficult. College
Of course you’ve got to consider the cost of setting up new provision and the hoops
you need to go through. You need trained staff. It’s not the sort of thing you can just go
out and do, saying ‘let’s offer this today’. Private Provider
The over-riding message was that expanding apprenticeship volumes is entirely possible,
but it can also be complex, involves considering a range of issues and needs to be carefully
Growth has to be planned. This is pretty-self evident in resource-intensive areas like
construction and engineering. Even if Apprentices only come into College one day per
week, you still have to give over a lot of workshop space to it. So it’s not simple to just
expand provision at short notice. It needs to fit in with everything else. Also you need
to think about the employers you’ve got. Apprentices have to attain a range of
competencies within their workplace, which may be quite difficult at the higher levels.
So, you have to manage this either by bringing Apprentices into the college or possibly
76 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
by arranging swaps with other employers so that they can complete their framework.
Then you need to make sure you have the resources in place to provide the pastoral
support, the 12-weekly reviews and so on. We do a lot of visits to see apprentices at
work, to resolve any difficulties they might be having and so on. These aren’t really
limitations as such - just things we need consider when we are reviewing our numbers
of apprenticeships. College
We also have to think differently if we are going to deliver outside a certain catchment
area. You need to be more creative in terms of using online tools or by ‘blocking’ so
employers lose people for two to three weeks, rather than one day per week. That has
helped us to raise numbers in the past. College
In conclusion, a level of caution is required about pressing providers to expand
Apprenticeship volumes too rapidly. Providers have many considerations that they need to
balance and, if the expansion is not to be attained as the result of some ‘ruse’, an ambition
for incremental growth may be more realistic.
5.21.6 Employer demand
Inadequate employer demand for apprenticeships is perhaps the most frequently cited factor
limiting apprenticeship growth. Given its significance, providers were asked about the
balance between the supply of apprenticeship places and levels of demand from individuals.
Provider responses confirm that a lack of apprenticeship openings with employers is a key
factor limiting apprenticeship growth.
In previous years, you had employers looking for young people to fill Apprenticeships
and not finding them. Now it’s the opposite - there are more people and a lack of
employers to take them on. If you put an advert out through NAS or Connexions, you
might get five applicants. Obviously that means you have to disappoint people, though
we do try to keep in touch with people and match them with something in the future.
The main issue for us is getting employers on board. It can be a bit seasonal but
generally we have more young people looking for jobs than there are apprenticeships
A lot of the Apprentices we have come from employers who have already identified the
person for their Apprenticeship, be it an existing employee or someone new they want
to take on. We are fortunate in that respect. But, we do have young people coming to
us asking if we can help them find an employer and over the last two summers this has
been quite hard. The supply of employers offering apprenticeships is the main
limitation. Learners’ understanding of what options are available to them at 16 is
another limit. But they still have to find a job. So, however you look at it, it still comes
back to the number of employment opportunities. Private Provider
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 77
The majority of apprenticeship vacancies were identified as being relatively easy to fill.
However, within this general rule, there do appear to be some differences in experience
Although this ‘snap-shot’ is in no way scientifically robust, provider responses tended to
suggest that the level of demand for apprenticeships is highest in the ‘traditional’ areas, such
as construction skills (electrical and plumbing), automotive industries and hairdressing, and
weakest, relative to supply, in the ‘new’ areas, such as hospitality, customer service, health
and social care.
On the whole, the constraint to expansion is on the supply side, but that too depends
on the Framework area. If you’re looking at construction and accountancy, there are
many more individuals looking to do them than there are opportunities. The same
applies to hairdressing. College
You have areas, like electrical or plumbing, where there are a lot of young people who
would like an apprenticeship but you don’t have the employers. If you have a lot of
people wanting to do accountancy, you would also struggle to get the employers. In
other areas, like hairdressing and care, we tend to have a pretty good balance.
In some sectors there is definitely a shortage of opportunities offered by employers.
But then there are others where we have more opportunities than young people
looking to take up Apprenticeships. There isn’t any particular pattern. So, in
construction, where there is reduced economic activity right now, it’s no problem to fill
vacancies when employers come to us. Another example is motor vehicle ... In
hospitality or customer service, it’s usually the other way around. College
In hospitality you get a lot of employers looking for young people, so we might have
more vacancies than young people. The other area is health and social care. It’s
difficult to make this attractive to young people and to show them the career
opportunities that are here, moving into nursing as a profession. You need to show
young people where they can go after Level 3. College
There are some occupations were we do have vacancies that aren’t so easy to fill.
These are usually in professional chef, where there are more vacancies than young
people. The same is true of business administration. College
This might warrant further, qualitative research. Advocates of apprenticeships will argue that
the value of apprenticeships, employment and progression opportunities in the ‘new’ areas
may have yet to be fully appreciated by young people, careers advisors, parents and others
influencers of young people’s career choices. Sceptics will argue that this comparative lack
of demand, given high levels of (youth) unemployment, is a reflection of the attractiveness of
these jobs and realistic perceptions of pay rates, working hours, progression opportunities
and so on. This argument will not be resolved here. However, it does raise a question for
HotSW LEP, if it is to promote apprenticeships in any particular sector, about the extent to
78 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
which it should give weight to patterns of individual demand and focus efforts to develop
supply in the ‘popular’, often traditional, sectors.
The introduction of loans for adult apprenticeships at Level 3 and above is viewed as a
significant threat to the future of adult apprenticeships. The following quotes are typical of
the reactions of providers.
Looking further forward, loans for Level 3s could be a big potential limit to growth. I can
see volumes dropping off significantly if individuals have to take out the loan.
I think, if we end up with loans, it will kill off adult apprenticeships. Private Provider
I think people will have difficulty with loans. It’s always been the employer and
government who have paid so far. It’s going to be difficult for individuals to get their
heads around the fact that they will need to pay themselves. College
When I was looking at over 25s and saw that they may be part-funded by employers
and part-funded by loans, my gut reaction was, ‘well that could be the end of them
then’. But who knows? It may end up like university with people getting used to paying
for them. But I’m not sure... It will probably result in recruitment going down.
Providers felt that individuals would only take out apprenticeship loans if there was clear and
robust evidence of a return on their investment.
I think, with loans on the horizon, we’re going to find that our adult apprenticeship will
shrink. I’d like to think it would grow. It might eventually when people get used to loans.
I think loans will be more easily accepted for things like management and higher level
qualifications, as that’s where the returns tend to be higher. Private Provider
These [people who have to take out loans] are working people who already have
sustained employment, so there has to be a way of convincing them that taking out the
loan will lead them to something higher. If you’re working with 45 to 55 year olds, this
isn’t easy. They are also a more responsible age group, who will feel that they owe
that money and that it’s a debt that they won’t have so much time to pay off.
There was some speculation about whether employers might pick up a higher proportion or
all of the cost of employees’ training if loans were introduced, but this was generally
considered to be unclear or unlikely, unless qualifications were a legal requirement.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 79
We may end up talking with employers about them picking up a higher percentage of
the loan. It’s not really clear. College
I don’t think employers will pay for adult Apprentices. It will be the individuals. The
problem employers have with all qualifications is that they don’t want qualified staff
unless it’s mandatory, like food hygiene. Employers tend just to have problems that
they need solved and if training does that for them, then they go for it. The loans will
be for full qualifications, which benefit the individuals more. College
There was a call for clarity and simplicity in the administration of loans.
The important thing from our perspective is to get information out to people, in a really
simple, sensible way, so everyone knows their entitlements and what they will pay for.
They also need to keep the bureaucracy around the loans to a minimum. Some
employers already say don’t care how much they have to pay, as long as the training
is right and things are kept simple. If the loans service is flexible, understandable and
universal, it may work. College
5.23 Information Advice and Guidance
Training providers have serious concerns about the adequacy and impartiality of Information,
Advice and Guidance (IAG) being given to young people at school. Many providers are
trying to gain access to schools to promote apprenticeships but find it difficult to do so. This
appears to be particularly the case for private providers.
We find it very difficult to get into schools. We do try, both through networks and by
ourselves. The problem is that schools see you as the competition. The more people
they get to stay on in the sixth form, the more money they get, so there isn’t much info
about apprenticeships. Private Provider
I think that something needs to be done about school career information … If we go
into schools, the school often doesn’t want us to put anything about apprenticeships on
the stand … Schools have always tried to cling onto young people, particularly to keep
them to January which is when you get your funding for the year. After that, it doesn’t
matter so much. We’ve always had an influx of learners in January. Private Provider
We do find that when we volunteer to go into schools to give careers advice, we do
sometimes get told that they only have limited time for guidance, so it isn’t possible.
That does make you worry a bit. Private Provider
Although colleges can face similar issues, the issue does appear to be most keenly felt by
80 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
Of course the College has such a wide range of things they can offer, it’s not surprising
that they give the College the opportunity to showcase that range of provision.
Interestingly, for at least one college, the competition with schools is focused on pupils
considering continuing with classroom-based learning programmes, either school or college.
This is presumably because apprenticeships are viewed, in the words of one provider, as
being at the ‘opposite end of a spectrum’ to academic study.
Schools are naturally concerned about losing pupils to College or any other competing
provider, although, actually, they are more relaxed about our apprenticeship team
going in to talk to young people about that option than those talking about mainstream
There’s no doubt that the average parent of someone in Year 11 will think A levels
first. If they have a child who is turned off by idea of A levels, they will consider full-
time vocational education in a school or college next and only then Apprenticeships.
It’s almost as if there is a cultural cringe about them compared with A levels and that
the two are seen as two opposite ends of a spectrum, which is bonkers. College
Tertiary colleges, in areas where schools do not have sixth forms, appear to find gaining
access and working in partnership with schools easier.
As a tertiary college, it’s much easier to get into the schools, because they [schools]
aren’t conscious of maintaining numbers in their own 6th Forms. It’s understandable
why schools in other areas might be concerned - it’s based on their own sustainability.
But we’re not competing in same way, so our team of advisors can go in and deliver
the advice and guidance and can tell them about apprenticeships or run open
evenings with dedicated sessions giving advice on apprenticeships to parents and
prospective students. College
Not all the secondary schools in our area have 6th forms and we do get out and about
into our local schools. We match our heads of teams with a particular secondary
school, so they can go in and give advice and guidance. There is still a lot of work to
do to get the message across about apprenticeships in schools … We’re working very
hard on this as we think liaison with schools is critical. College
As a tertiary college, we tend to be able to get into the schools without that much
Provider concerns extend beyond their own ability to spend time providing information
advice and guidance to young people. The lack of resources within both Careers South West
and NAS troubled more than one provider.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 81
It’s becoming harder for young people to get impartial guidance with what’s happening
with Careers South West. They are getting less time in schools and schools aren’t
necessarily buying them in. Because of the time constraints, Connexions advisors are
now only there to help the most vulnerable learners. Private Provider
NAS have lost their learner services team and won’t be able to go in to talk about
apprenticeships nearly so much now. It’s really important that there is something
developed that raises awareness of Apprenticeships and the breadth of them that are
available, to get beyond the perception that it’s still just construction, motor vehicle,
engineering and hairdressing. Private Provider
In the course of our interviews, a number of providers described the message that they were
trying to get across. Common themes were: countering the view of apprenticeship as a
residual route for the less able, and promoting apprenticeships as a positive opportunity to
progress in work and learning.
The message we want to get into schools is about raising awareness of
apprenticeships as a realistic and positive option. Private Provider
There’s also a lot more work to be done around building the confidence of young
people to take on apprenticeships and thinking more broadly than the more traditional
routes. It’s quite a new thing in many areas like health and social care, sport, customer
service. I think you have to help people to understand what it involves, what it means
and what they can hope to get from it. College
We’ve done quite a lot of work on developing DVDs and different types of media that
we can use with year nines and tens, when we go out to schools. These show our
current learners, how they have gone into different types of jobs, what they do, how
they progress and so on. Although we’ve been allowed into schools, apprenticeships
are still seen as the option for less academic learners. Private Provider
Apprenticeships are still seen as being for the less able … there’s still a way to go to
demonstrate their value. I would say that the expectations of people coming onto
Apprenticeships are getting higher and higher. We have raised our expectations of the
grade levels that we’re looking for from candidates, partly as a result of the
Frameworks themselves becoming more demanding. There should be a really strong
message now that the natural apprenticeship progression route goes from foundation
degree right up to honours degree. College
5.23.1 Promoting apprenticeships to parents
Many providers also pointed out that it was not enough just to take these messages to young
people. The provider cited above continued:
82 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
We need to get this over to parents and students. It’s quite a big change in some
people’s mindsets, but it is possible to do this. As part of Aimhigher, we took a lot of
students up to Land Rover, to show how these sorts of progression route are being
developed already. College
Others providers commented as follows.
I’ve found that, when working with young people, it usually works best if a parent
knows and understands what you’re talking about, especially in the newer areas like
customer service. College
There does need to be promotion of Apprentices, especially to parents, who are
realizing that the cost of going to university may not be beneficial and that, if they go
for an apprentice, they get a full-time job instead. Private Provider
Although not within the remit of the interviews, one provider pointed out that IAG was only
part of the picture. To make a real impact, the agenda needed to be broadened to
encompass work experience and other activities which can help inform young people about
apprenticeship and working life as a whole.
The work experience programme could be changed to be more real. It’s one thing to
go into schools and talk to young people about Apprenticeships, but it’s another thing
for them to go and find out what it really involves. I think there needs to be a focus on
how we prepare young people to go into apprenticeships. College
5.24 School-based vocational training
The Wolf Report included the following passage about the quality of some vocational
education and training in schools.
… there are 600,000 young people, on average, in every year group, whom
institutions across the system are competing to attract and retain. As we know
from the last few years, many schools are not in the least reluctant to offer and
enter young people for qualifications which they do not have the professional
competence to teach to a high standard. And even if there were the money
available for major equipment purchases, and specialised staff for small-group
teaching – which there is not – most schools cannot possibly build up the large
groups needed for genuinely high-quality, professionally directed vocational
courses. The danger is that many will promise a curriculum that they cannot, in
Wolf Report p128
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 83
This critical view was echoed by a large number of providers.
Sometimes in schools now there are introductions to careers in plumbing or
engineering, but the level of skills training in these is so low that it doesn’t actually
meet employer needs and the young person can end up misled. If they stay in school
to do this until age 18, then the chance they would have had to do a fully-funded
apprenticeship goes. We’ve had examples of schools saying ‘we can deliver
apprenticeships, we can do engineering because we have a design technology
lecturer’. This isn’t the case. You need specialist staff and years of experience in
I don’t want to sound protectionist, as if I’m saying that apprenticeships should only be
offered in FE or training providers. That isn’t the case. But I do have some concerns
about apprenticeships being offered by schools. Delivering apprenticeships requires a
high level of both assessment and occupational competence among staff. This may be
present in some specialist schools, but it can be a difficult thing for schools to offer and
does raise concerns. College
Now schools are getting smarter with vocational learning and are dabbling in childcare
and hospitality. After all, they all have kitchens that aren’t used after lunch. So now
they are capturing the 16 to 18 year olds, because these pupils are in an environment
that they know and, if they stay in school, they stay with their friends in familiar
surroundings. As a result, schools are often bad at promoting vocational learning and
apprenticeships as a viable alternative to 6th form because their interest is in keeping
them in learning. Private Provider
The emergence of academies was seen as likely to intensify this competition further and
lead to reduced collaboration between providers and schools.
For a lot of schools, especially Academies, 16 to 18 year olds represent a new funding
stream … There will be an underlying worry about academies. Put the name
‘Academy’ out there and they start thinking differently. In my opinion, they are bound to
start being more entrepreneurial. Private Provider
I think the collaboration work between schools and training providers, where providers
were delivering NVQ qualifications [to people in schools], will disappear if Academies
are entirely separate entities. Private Provider
In the past, funding for 14 to 16 vocational education and training, which went to
schools via the local authority, would be passed on to colleges if young people went to
do an NVQ there. But what you are seeing with Academies is that they no longer wish
to send young people to college to do 14 to 16 vocational training. They want to do it
84 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
It may not be easy for schools and academies to get into apprenticeship delivery, as the
provider quoted above went on to point out.
The SFA minimum contract levels will make it difficult for individual schools to get
contracts [to deliver apprenticeships], but consortia might. It’s not easy for them, but
with the demographic changes and now that some have Academy status, more
schools are looking to do their own 16 to 18 delivery, including Apprenticeships.
5.25 National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
As one provider pointed out:
The number of employers offering Apprenticeships is remarkably small, something like
four or five per cent. There is plenty of upside and scope to increase numbers. But you
do have to do a lot of hard work explaining what they are ... NAS should be a conduit
to employers. I’ve always been pretty positive about NAS, though there are others who
see them as a bit of an unnecessary interface between the provider and employers.
The feedback on NAS confirmed this division of opinion among providers. One the one
hand, there are providers who believe:
NAS are a waste of time. It’s us who goes out to find the employer, to do the marketing
and get the work. We get the odd referral from NAS. I guess the TV and radio
campaigns raise awareness a bit, but not significantly. For the 16 to 18 year olds, the
big impact is what they are told in school. Private Provider
On the other hand, there are providers who have found:
NAS is very good and have been very good at passing referrals to us. We haven’t
found there to be any duplication with them and us both approaching the same
employer. You do have to work the system, mind, to make sure they know what you
can do and that you respond really fast (to vacancies). You need to demonstrate that
you can pick things up. That way they have confidence and refer more to you in the
future. Private Provider
There seems to be a fair degree of agreement around the value of national marketing
undertaken by NAS, reflected in comments such as:
I think Apprenticeships need more national marketing. They’ve gone off the burner.
National campaigns, like the one last year when The Apprentice was on TV, were
useful for raising awareness. Private Provider
Others providers appreciated that:
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 85
NAS do quite a lot of awareness raising at schools and so on which is useful. College
But, the overall impression is that success depends on the relationship providers have with
local NAS staff and the extent to which they have invested in ensuring that NAS thoroughly
understand what they can and cannot provide, with the result that NAS only makes
appropriate referrals. This issue, about the volume and appropriateness of referrals, was
most common point of reference in discussions about NAS.
Examples of ‘lukewarm’ comments are given below.
What we have found, though, is some issues about the quality of the referrals we get
via NAS. As a recent example, a small social enterprise wanted to put one person
through customer service and one through hospitality. NAS were then chasing us,
asking why the vacancies weren’t filled. The reason was that the people they had in
mind to fill them had high qualification levels already and weren’t eligible for
apprenticeships, at least with government support. The issue here can be one of
‘Chinese whispers’. We find that things work much better if you just have a direct
relationship with the employer. NAS can sometimes feel like an extra cog in the wheel.
We do get referrals from NAS, so they are a helpful partner, though sometimes the
referrals can be a bit obscure. College
In the early days of NAS, you could get a referral and when you got out there, it was a
referral for someone who wanted a mechanic [not an area covered by this specialist
care provider] or it was a totally unsuitable placement. We haven’t had this locally, but
I think it does happen in some areas. Private Provider
This issue of ‘inappropriate referrals’, was seen by one provider to extend beyond issues of
eligibility or occupational area discussed and into NAS’ understanding of providers’ delivery
models and what may or may not be cost-effective.
NAS is ok but patchy. In some areas, they are very good at finding us large employers
to work with. In other areas, they turn up with one learner, which is really difficult to
respond to cost effectively. Private Provider
This could be considered a significant ‘ask’ of NAS. Whether provider expectations are
realistic or not is beyond this discussion. However, it may explain why those who are more
positive about NAS frequently also mention their considerable investment in developing
relationships with NAS staff.
I count myself very lucky to have [name of NAS employee] as our local contact. She is
very supportive. We’ve had referrals through from her, and I mean good referrals.
We’ve worked well with NAS, especially in the Devon area. Private Provider
86 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
In last two years, we’ve found the relationship with NAS to be a good thing in terms of
getting referrals. This is because NAS are really aware of our product and are happy
with what they are doing. Private Provider
A second issue raised by providers concerns the sometimes poor quality of applications
received in response to vacancies posted on the NAS website. Providers pointed to the need
for an early involvement in filling vacancies.
They [NAS] provide advertising and have their website through which employers
advertise Apprenticeships. Then people apply for these via their website. NAS sends
all the applications through to us … and we then send them on to the employer.
Sometimes employers go through these themselves and sometimes they work with us
to screen the applicants. The conversation rate between expressions of interest
[submitted by young people via the NAS website] and young people turning up to
interview is not that strong. You might find that only half turn up. If the employers come
through us, we try to prepare the applicants for interview in advance, giving advice and
guidance about the sector and what the Apprenticeship will involve. College
It’s been a mixed experience. There can be some problems with not sifting quite
enough and with getting the right candidates for the employers. Private Provider
What we’ve seen is a reduction in the ability of learners. This is compounded by the
NAS matching service, in that we might not see a learner until they have been
interviewed by the employer. By then, the employer is already saying they want the
individual and you don’t get the opportunity to assess properly whether or not they can
do the Framework. Things work better if we’re involved in the whole process.
There are however also examples of close and pro-active partnership-working with NAS that
have yielded good results for providers.
We’re working closely with NAS in getting various groups of employers together and
talking about how we help them out. These have been quite fruitful. They [NAS] have
also helped us work well with the South West Apprenticeship Company. This has
provided flexible ways of delivering apprenticeships that can be a big help to some
However, with cuts to NAS staffing anticipated, the extent to which this sort of work will be
feasible in future is also being questioned.
One of our concerns is that NAS is getting thinner and, looking forward, may not
produce the levels of referrals that we used to get from them. Private Provider
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 87
On occasion, feedback about NAS extended into considerations of national apprenticeship
strategy generally, rather than NAS’s functional role in delivering this growth. One provider
spokesperson observed that:
There are significant difficulties in the current strategy of rapid Apprenticeship
expansion. NAS’s approach of encouraging Apprenticeship growth through the
expansion of in-company provision and bringing new major national providers into the
area has created tensions. Some small providers, who have been in the area for many
years, growing their provision incrementally, have been left feeling marginalised. They
also have concerns about lower success rates and the quality of provision by some
major organisations that deliver fast track apprenticeships and ‘across the board’.
The policy of giving large employers the opportunity to hold apprenticeship contracts directly
with NAS was considered highly controversial by one provider.
The introduction of NAS has increased the level of competition; it was also an
opportunity for employers who had previously worked in partnership with a provider to
take on their own contract, deduct a management fee and then go back to the same
provider with a cut price rate to deliver the business commercially. Private Provider
This was not, however, identified as a problem very frequently. Indeed, one college
highlighted an occasion when this policy had had the opposite effect, at least for them55.
We’ve not found that any of our major employers have decided to upsticks and
contract directly with NAS. In fact, [company name] is an example of the opposite.
They tried it but found that the burden of running their own training contract was a
distraction from their core business, so they came to us [to deliver the training] instead.
5.26 The ‘100 in 100’ Apprenticeship Campaign
Provider feedback about the ‘100 in 100’ apprenticeship campaign ranged from being highly
positive to the lukewarm.
Providers felt that marketing campaigns such as ‘100 in 100’ should not be a one-off. They
should be a sustained area of work, potentially across the entire LEP area, supported by
providers’ own marketing efforts.
We did very well out of ‘100 in 100’ campaign [in Exeter/Heart of Devon]. I think we got
about 30 apprenticeships out of it, but it was something that we were planning to do
anyway. It’s not enough just to raise awareness. You need to do more than that and to
be out there engaging and developing relationships with employers for the long term.
Campaigns are just part of that. College
A different training provider may have been involved prior to this employer contracting with NAS. If that were
the case they might have lost their relationship with the employer in this case.
88 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
The ‘100 in 100’ was a really good campaign in Exeter. We did very well out of it. It
really raised the profile, because the local press were involved and promoting it every
week. The trouble is, as soon as you stop promoting it, it kind of falls away.
We did very well out of the ‘100 in 100’ campaign and know that this is a very good
vehicle for increasing numbers and getting employers who haven’t been involved
recently re-engaged. This is a prime opportunity for us. We need to go on supporting
things like the ‘Get Somerset Working’ strategy and raise awareness of
apprenticeships as a great way of recruiting new people. When the Get Somerset
Working campaign is finished, it would be worth thinking of a wider campaign across
the LEP as a whole, and also involving the Training Provider Networks in these
campaigns. Private Provider
The ‘100 in 100’ was very successful, so more of that kind of activity would be useful.
One provider suggested that the focus might be usefully extended beyond apprenticeships
alone and that future campaigns should focus on recruiting employers that were new to
The ‘100 in 100’ campaigns were very successful, at least according to the publicity. It
would be good to have some real stats at the end of it though, to show that these are
real employers, new employers, engaging with apprentices in a sustained way ... I
think in the last campaign, the ‘100 in 100’, some might have been some existing
employers taking on extra [apprenticeships]. We just have to ensure that two years
down the line, we still have those opportunities. The next campaign is going to focus
on getting new employers signed up. We’ve opened it up now in Somerset to ‘Getting
Somerset Working’, involving work experience and things leading up to
Apprenticeships. That’s just started and appears successful. College
While large numbers of providers were positive and no-one was entirely negative, there were
a significant number of lukewarm responses.
The ‘100 in 100’ campaign was OK, but quite a lot of the vacancies probably would
have been created anyway. The question is how many extra were created. We
couldn’t see any particular bulge in the numbers coming through. We had to put
money into it for the advertising campaign. On a purely commercial basis, we might
have been better off spending the money elsewhere. But there are some things you
have to be part of. Private Provider
We took part. It was some use, but not much. Our recruitment pattern is very regular
and routine. People don’t really suddenly think, ‘I’ll become an [occupation]’, so we
didn’t get that much extra out of it. Private Provider
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 89
This reticence appears to be linked to the idea that the benefits of the campaign were not
evenly spread across all organisations.
The ‘100 in 100’ campaign was very successful in Somerset, if fairly modest for us.
The ‘100 in 100’ campaigns were promoted as being totally successful, but actually a
lot of the 100 new apprentices were employed by colleges. I’m not saying it wasn’t a
success, but I do know a college that employed a lot apprentices. Private Provider
5.27 The Work Programme
Providers were asked about the links that they might make or had created between
apprenticeship provision and the Work Programme. The general view was that it should be
possible to bring the two programmes together, to the benefit of the providers and customers
of both, but the Work Programme is still at an early stage and this is, therefore, mainly
something for the future. There were few concrete examples of success to date.
We have an agreement to be an apprenticeship subcontractor to one [Prime Provider].
They are the Work Programme provider, but if they get them into jobs as an
apprentice, then we do the apprenticeship training. The fact that they are doing an
apprenticeship should keep them in work for longer [thereby increasing the level of
payment to the Work Programme provider]. Private Provider
We have started doing a bit of Work Programme provision. If we can get people to
progress onto apprenticeships from the Work Programme, that’s great. But there’s only
two people doing this at the moment. We’re starting, but in a very small way. We will
just see how it goes and take it from there. Private Provider
I know that some providers see a Work Programme tie up as win/win and are exploring
this. But it’s early days. Private Provider
A couple of providers were more sceptical. One wondered whether there might be an
element of competition between the two programmes, as well as complementarity.
In theory, the Work Programme is a good initiative, but in theory it might prevent
apprentices being taken on. The end goal for Work Programme providers is obviously
to get people into jobs, whether as apprentices or not. Some vacancies that employers
might have allocated to apprenticeships may therefore be being filled with Work
Programme customers, with support being provided down that route, like work
experience that turns into a job supported by whatever training they have in that Work
Programme package. Having said that, getting a Work Programme customer onto an
apprenticeship could also be a win/win for both them and for us, if we can link in with
them. Private Provider
90 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
Another wondered whether the financial interests of Work Programme providers might deter
them from making referrals to third parties.
We haven’t had any contact with Work programme providers. I imagine this is
because, as large [training/apprenticeship] providers themselves, it makes more sense
for them to refer into own provision. College
This does appear to be a potentially promising area. And there may be clear rewards for
providers who are able to bring the two programmes together to support long-term
unemployed people into jobs with training and progression, via apprenticeships.
However, a tie-in with the Work Programme was not the only issue for apprenticeship
providers. Many were working with Jobcentre Plus to secure referrals across a much wider
range of provision.
We know the local Work Programme providers … and we ourselves deliver return-to-
work type programmes aimed at NEETs. We have created some good links between
the Work Programme and these parts of our provision. This may eventually result in
some people being referred on to do apprenticeships as well. College
We’ve good relationships with Jobcentre Plus. The apprenticeship team have run a
number of projects with them and we now have senior advisors at Jobcentre Plus who
have a really clear idea of who to refer and what’s on offer. They make some really
good referrals. College
5.28 The role of HotSW LEP
The final aspect of this survey was to ask providers how they thought the LEP could help in
taking forward the apprenticeship agenda. A number of providers found this a hard question
This is a difficult one. We’ve not really engaged with LEPs at all yet. I go to some high
up meetings and sometimes a local representative is there speaking for employers,
which is fine. But we actually engage with employers ourselves on a daily basis. The
idea that they know more about employers than us is clearly nonsense. It’s difficult to
know what the relationship will be. As part of our contract we are supposed to engage
with them, but we don’t really know to what end yet.
The first thing they need to do is establish the communication structures. We need to
work out how we benefit from each other. We need to work with our own rep on the
LEP on how the cascade model will ensure our voice is represented and we know
what’s going on. Private Provider
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 91
5.28.1 Communication and partnership working
Many providers saw the LEP as having a role in promoting effective communication,
collaboration and sharing of good practice.
We want a bit of leadership and guidance and steerage on what employers want and
how we can respond to that agenda. College
There’s an important role in trying to get everything aligning a bit better. College
Supporting collaborative working - looking at whether there are certain aspects that
one provider is better at than another, and helping them to develop from each other’s
practice - that might help. Private Provider
We have to have a joined up approach about how we work with them [employers]. I
know we’re in competition with each other, but we need to be careful of employers
being battered by all the providers and all the other agencies saying they want to work
with you and are the solution to your problems. If the LEP can join this up, that would
be great. I’m not sure if they are really going to be able to do this because the
competition is still going to be there. College
There was, however, no real clarity or advice on how the LEP might generate such
leadership, alignment, collaborative working and common purpose. Providers tended to point
out things like the fact that there are already:
good networks with good links trying to keep the funding in the region, rather than
allowing it to go out of the region to other providers and parts of the country. The two
training provider networks are doing a really good job of fighting for all the providers in
the area, both colleges and private providers. College
However, what is clear is that there remains a need for the LEP to establish (or at least
communicate) what partnership arrangements and communication channels it proposes to
use in order to draw on the intelligence and align its work with that of others, such as the
training provider networks mentioned above.
Although there was some uncertainty about the general role of the LEP, providers were able
to point to a range of specific roles that they would like to see taken on by the LEP.
5.28.2 Promoting apprenticeships to employers
There was a clear call for the LEP to take a leading role in driving up employer demand for
Raising awareness of apprenticeships among employers should be a priority.
92 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
The LEP needs to … focus on driving up demand through things like campaigns to
increase employer apprenticeship take-up. College
The role of the LEP should be about raising the profile and supporting the importance
of apprenticeships. College
There is still a huge amount of awareness-raising to be done. They [employers] often
don’t know what they need to do or what it would be like to have an apprentice. They
think it would involve a lot of paperwork, would be a hassle and distraction from their
main business … I think the LEP needs to take responsibility for raising the profile of
apprenticeships at every opportunity it can. College
Particular emphasis was placed on encouraging new employers to get involved in offering
apprenticeships for the first time, or after a long break from providing them.
They [the LEP] have a big job to do in terms of championing apprenticeships,
especially where companies are new to them or haven’t done them for many years
and don’t appreciate how they have changed in that time. College
Promoting apprenticeships, engaging with new employers and getting them to commit,
would be a valuable role for the LEP as well, particularly when it comes to the public
A number of providers made recommendations about how the LEP might go about doing
this. The most frequent recommendations concerned the production of case studies
demonstrating the benefits of apprenticeships and supporting the work of apprenticeship
It would be good for the LEP to be sharing positive case studies of how
apprenticeships have worked for businesses in the area. College
Raising awareness of apprenticeships and the value of apprenticeships should
definitely be a priority, especially as they are going to be employers talking to other
employers. They are well placed to do that kind of ambassador-like activities. Getting a
broad range of really good case studies would be useful. There’s nothing better for
employers than seeing how other employers have benefited or hearing from them
directly about this. Private Provider
Getting the message over to employers, about what an apprentice could bring to their
organisation … For employers who are new to it, they can think ‘it’s going to take up a
lot of my time’ and not really see beyond that. There needs to be real partnership
working to get the benefits across to people.
Apprentice ambassadors, young people who have already done them, are the best
people to sell apprenticeships to other young people. Having some employers in
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 93
particular sectors who could talk to other employers in that sector at events and so on,
looking at the benefits and perhaps going over whatever might be concerning them or
stopping them, that would be a good idea too. Private Provider
One caveat, raised on occassions, was that it is important to bear in mind that provider may
offer apprenticeships as part of a wider package of training. QCF units, NVQs and fully
funded non-accredited training all have their place, often alongside apprenticeships. One
provider advised that the LEP could help by:
not becoming over focused on apprenticeships to the exclusion of other, at times more
appropriate, training programmes. Private Provider
Another pointed out the value of pre-apprenticeship activity in helping young people to make
informed choices and helping employers to appreciate the value young people could bring to
We need the LEP to help us get people into work and build the number of placements
… This could also include promoting and encouraging employers to take on a
youngster and giving them a chance, whether through Access to Apprenticeship, as a
free work placement, or by providing work placements that are paid for six weeks or
so. We’re promoting Access to Apprenticeship both as a government thing and also as
a purely voluntary arrangement between the young person and an employer, giving
that person a chance to develop skills and to prove they are useful and can help the
firm to make money. Private Provider
5.28.3 IAG and promoting apprenticeships in schools
Providers were clear that, as well as promoting apprenticeships to employers, the LEP had
an important role to play in encouraging schools to make sure that young people have
access to impartial IAG and the opportunity to learn about apprenticeships.
The LEP should also do something about IAG in schools, by having apprenticeship
ambassadors who go into schools and by making sure that the schools let them in.
Schools sometimes don’t let them in, so the LEP should definitely make an issue of
that. They get a lot of money if the young people stay on in their 6th form. That is fine if
it is the right thing for the young person but sometimes young people want to start a
vocational career at 16. College
The LEP should also work with schools, because if you identify 100 apprenticeship
opportunities in the East of Exeter Growth point, say, you should also be working with
the schools to raise awareness of these opportunities and helping to fill them. We need
to overcome school and parental objections to apprenticeships and make sure people
see Apprenticeships as real opportunities to get into and get on in work. There is a
definite need to improve IAG. College
94 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
There is also considerable work to be done to develop IAG and raise awareness of
Apprenticeships in schools. There sometimes remains a view that A levels are the only
effective choice for people who want to progress or have experience of higher levels of
education. This isn’t the case and improving understanding of the vocational
progression routes and the roles that Apprenticeships can play within that is extremely
I still think the biggest thing we need to address is promotion in schools. There are so
many people who come out of school who just don’t know that it’s a possibility. I’m not
quite sure how you go about doing that – you can’t legislate to say schools must let
people in to talk about Apprenticeships. Private Provider
Providers identified the LEP as having an important role as a voice for the Heart of the South
West, representing provider concerns and interests. The concerns highlighted as needing to
be raised were numerous and varied, as the quotes below demonstrate. Some further
investigation might be required to arrive at any agreed positions, as well as providing greater
clarity on the process that providers should use to get the LEP to take up issues on their
Access to Apprenticeships/Young Apprenticeships
I think any voice that passes on Providers’ concerns about the way things are working
or not working would be useful. Things like the fact that the Access to Apprentice
programme isn’t as flexible as it could be. Private Provider
We’ve been running the Young Apprenticeship programme, but this is its last year. So,
although Wolf said she wanted to see more vocational provision at 14 onwards, it’s
going to end, which is an incredible shame as it’s been a really good programme for
young people. We’d really like to see this both reinstated and expanded. We’ve also
found it a very good way of levering in more employers, especially local employers,
who are near the schools and where young people live, which is one reason why they
have been offering the jobs in the first place. We’d like to see the LEP push on that.
SSC and gaining approval for new frameworks
Providing an employer voice, to help us get funding for qualifications that reflect the
competencies that local employers want would be useful. The SSCs can really vary.
Some are very good and proactive while some aren’t as good. LEPs need to exert
pressure to make sure that things respond to employer needs. You don’t want six or
twelve months to make things happen. College
There may also be some help they could offer in terms of getting new Frameworks off
the ground. This isn’t always easy. The first thing to do is make sure that you have an
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 95
Sector Skills Council (SSC) behind the framework that you are trying to build, then
after that you go to the SFA to get the funding. Getting SSC support can be difficult, so
the LEP could play a helpful role by using its influence there. College
One thing the LEP could do is address the issue of national providers pulling out of the
region. The SFA will know what proportion of a contract is delivered in a region and
there’s certainly an argument that the LEP could make that ‘if they pull out, their
contract should be reduced to reflect this decision’. College
The LEP could also play a useful role as a voice on behalf of the quality providers in
the region, pointing out situations where opportunities to fulfil government objectives
exist but are hampered due to the lack of funding. SFA and NAS must get people
coming to them all the time to say ‘we want more money for this or that’. They may
therefore appreciate it if the LEP pulled all this information together, saying ‘we’ve got
this number of employers, this number of apprenticeships in these areas at these
levels. Can you fund them?’ College
Lobbying on things like extending the funding up to age 21 or more consistency about
employer contributions would be good. College
Making sure that rural businesses are fully supported would be a useful role, especially
considering the fact that it can be quite a lot cheaper to deliver in the main population
It would be good for the LEP to make some real commitment to off-the-job time. The
days of thinking that apprenticeships can be delivered 100% in the workplace should
be gone, in theory at least, but it will still take some time for that change to happen. In
raising awareness of apprenticeships, we should also be emphasising that
apprenticeship is also about giving people real [off-the-job] time for development.
5.28.5 Financial incentive schemes
Providers were aware of a number of local initiatives56 providing financial incentives to
employers taking on apprentices. They felt that these initiatives were useful. However, they
stressed that there was also a need for continuity and questioned whether such continuity
was likely to be achieved through initiatives promoted at the local level.
Such as the Torbay Employers Apprenticeship Reward Scheme (TEARS) and the current Devon
Apprenticeship Start-up scheme
96 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
One thing would be an incentive to employers. It doesn’t have to be much, but perhaps
something at the beginning and something so far through. The ones who have never
been involved before need something. Private Provider
I suppose one frustration is that there have been incentive schemes, local, regional,
ESF funded etc. What would be really good would be to get a national scheme and to
stick with it for a while. There is no doubt that cash incentives help, particularly for
small businesses taking on their first apprentice. These employers have to get a
different type of professional indemnity insurance, which costs about £500, so just
covering the costs of something like that might unlock a lot of small businesses. I don’t
think it should be a local scheme, it needs to be a national scheme, targeted at
companies with fewer than 20 employees or so. College
Initiatives that have provided extra money for SMEs or businesses that might not have
had an apprentice before have been useful. The problem with these, though, is that
they come and go and come and go. It can be a constant mixed message which really
confuses businesses. College
5.28.6 Local authorities
Providers are aware that local authorities are leading players within HotSW LEP and are
represented on its Board. They are also conscious that:
apprenticeship take-up within the public sector is generally low; and
public procurement offers could act as powerful levers for raising employer
engagement with apprenticeships.
In relation to the first point, providers argued that:
The LEP should also focus on the public sector. The majority of placements are
provided by the private sector and the public sector really needs to step up on this.
After all, all the Local Authorities sit on the LEP, so they should look at their own
internal staffing and all their own contracting if they want to promote Apprenticeships.
Many councils are taking the current reshaping of the workforce as an opportunity to
be a bit creative and look at the way that they recruit. Person specifications have
drifted upwards over the years, so you now find specifications for administrators saying
they must be graduates, just because they can. This has squeezed out the 16 to 18
year old school leavers. We’ve been working with NAS and Torbay Council to address
this. The political will is there, but the culture isn’t. In the private sector, quite a lot of
managers started off as apprentice; this isn’t the case in the public sector, so the issue
is pushing the political will at the top as well as the organisation down through the
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 97
The sort of thing that might work would be lobbying larger organisations, like NHS
Trusts, to offer apprenticeships. Getting into the public sector would be good. The only
problem is that those learners will attract so much less money than anyone else, so we
need to figure out how to help. Private Provider
I suppose a message to the Local Authorities on the LEP is to keep on recruiting. I’m
aware of one particular local authority, for example, who is going on recruiting
apprentices, because technically apprentices are not employed and therefore not
affected by the employment freeze. So that encourages them to carry on training.
Leading by example and encouraging the staff they have remaining to take up training
and to better themselves is also important. Private Provider
In relation to the use of public procurement as a mechanism to drive apprenticeship take-up,
providers typically commented as follows.
Getting local authorities to write a requirement in their contracts to take Apprentices
from the local area is definitely important, though I think this is mostly happening
already. Private Provider
The quota system can be helpful in the public sector. When we procure, we include
terms in our contracts about the organisation using apprenticeships and training them
through us … There may also be work that the LEP can do in terms of quotas,
especially with its bigger partners like the Local Authorities, for example by setting
One provider linked these two strands, with the following wry comment.
The other aspect of this is the sub-contracting by local councils, but the truth is that
you should really put your own house in order before you tell your supply chain what to
5.28.7 Priority sectors
Providers were prompted to consider whether the LEP should give priority to promoting
apprenticeships in particular ‘priority’ sectors. Some specialist providers, delivering training
in only one or a limited number of sectors, acknowledged that they had a vested interest and
generally made the case for their sector.
The Regional Development Agency used to be responsible for guiding SFA on what
the priority sectors were. Health and social care went right off the boil, even though it’s
one of the largest industries in the South West. They put in low carbon, which actually
employs very few people and does very little good in terms of volume. So getting the
LEP to think about the industries that employ the most people in the area and giving
these some priority is really important. If we dropped health as a priority, goodness
knows what would happen. So, influencing the funding authority, to make sure that
98 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
people’s needs are met as a whole and it’s not just focused on some small, exciting or
expanding sectors. Private Provider – specialising in health and social care
One provider advised that any policy that sought to promote growth in particular sectors and
control growth in others would not sit well within with a market-driven approach.
The LEP can’t require or make anyone deliver more Apprenticeships in x or y sector. I
daresay that it could have a conversation with the SFA, asking them to encourage
providers to expand in certain areas. But, ultimately, the demand must come from
employers, so the growth has to be organic. The focus for the LEP needs to be on
growing the market … It can also do this, by focusing on particular industries, like the
marine industry, or by focusing on particular initiatives, like Nuclear/Hinkley, which
should generate Apprenticeship opportunities. But it doesn’t make sense to control the
market by trying to control what we or other providers can supply. College
Others were less reticent and adopted a ‘helicopter’ view.
If I were pushing the LEP in a direction, I would say, ‘try and focus on four or five
sectors where we know there is a massive growth opportunity’. Then I would try to
lubricate the opportunity by: working with employers in those sectors; understanding
employer objections and issues in those sectors; educating those employers; then also
working with colleges and training providers to make sure that the employers got what
The LEP has still got to agree on its priority sectors. I daresay this will be a bit of a
compromise - a balance between creating a brand or an image for the area and
reflecting where the employer demand is. If you asked me to conjecture about what
the LEP’s Apprenticeship priorities might be, I’d suggest you could include: something
about high-tech industries and engineering, maybe centred around Flybe, the airport,
east of Exeter growth point together as one group; something about hospitality,
catering, tourism; and something about sustainability and low carbon, which is an area
where we are quite unusual and really do need to make the most of the many
initiatives here as well as our natural resources. College
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is difficult to find any kind of consensus within provider
perspectives on sector priorities. Some felt the focus should be on the high productivity and
emerging areas of the economy.
In terms of priority sectors, low carbon is new and exciting and a lot of people will get
into tha - just look at the number of companies doing solar roof panels. It’s an
opportunity, but you can’t forget the traditional apprenticeships. In engineering …
when you look at the costs involved, these are underfunded and, if this country wants
to retain these traditional industry skills and be a world leader, we need investment.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 99
The high productivity sectors are important, but they involve quite small numbers of
providers and learners. Private Provider
Others argued that high employment sectors should not be overlooked.
I have concerns that some of the traditional businesses might also be missed, for more
modern enthusiasms. Hair and beauty businesses still generate a fair bit of income in
the local economy. College
The SFA priorities at the moment are mostly about expanding provision. In terms of
sectors … I would have thought that health and social care and tourism would be
central to this. Private Provider
Given that they may have vested interests, training providers may not be the group best
equipped to address a question about whether HotSW LEP should prioritise apprenticeship
growth in some sectors over others. There was very little agreement on the topic and a
tendency to urge caution about embarking on such an endeavor at all. The focus of
providers, for now at least, is on growth across all sectors. Any effort to limit growth in any
particular area would be thoroughly resented and regarded as counter to the current policy
of market-driven growth. It seems clear, therefore, that any local strategies to support take-
up in particular sectors will need to focus on marketing and the use of ‘carrots’ rather than
‘sticks’. This may change, as and when funding becomes more limited or falls, at which time
the process of negotiation and pressure, through discussions with SFA, will become
5.28.8 Geographical priorities
Providers felt that focusing efforts to develop the supply of apprenticeship in particular
geographical areas, where there were particular economic development opportunities, was a
valuable strategy and one which the LEP might usefully support.
One provider gave an example of how such efforts might be focused.
We link into the city priorities and strategies … to give an example, one priority in
[place] is around high technology, IT and the STEM agenda. To support this, the
College worked with the Science Park to set up an apprenticeship project, part funded
through Sainsbury’s Gatsby Foundation. In the past, companies might have just
thought of recruiting graduates. We’ve worked hard to explain thataApprenticeships
offer a great alternative way for them to ‘grow their own employees’, and there are a
wide range of progression routes up to the higher level apprenticeship that we can
offer. We were only dealing with seven apprentices through this project, but it engaged
some new companies in High Level Apprenticeships and went really well. It was also
the first one of its kind in the country through a science park, because it ran as a group
training scheme, with the apprentices employed by the science park management
100 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
company to overcome some concerns about the administration and so on. I think
these sorts of area-based approaches offer quite a lot of potential.
The idea of the LEP providing pump-priming to grow Apprenticeships in particular
areas isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as it takes the form of a carrot rather than a
stick; it could be a bit like the [project described above]. These things can work, if the
LEP or partners on the LEP have the resources needed to make it work, perhaps
through covering a proportion of apprenticeship wages and so on.
The problem with achieving consensus on any geographical priorities is that providers are
aware or fearful that these might be focused on existing growth points. Thus, providers who
are close to such growth points, such as the one quoted below, tend to be very positive
about geographical targeting.
The LEP should consider geographical approaches, focused on local growth points
and maybe doing things like getting group training arrangements set up in these.
Those who are further away are concerned that such an approach would concentrate
resources in parts of HotSW that are already developing quickly, to the detriment of their
own local area.
In meetings I’ve been do, there have been discussions about the A38 down to
Plymouth and a concern that all the focus will be on that, on Skypark, Langage and so
on. From a [place] perspective, there is concern about there being less impact the
further you are from the motorway. If there is a strong emphasis on science park-type
developments, we’re a long way away from that. College
5.28.9 Inward investment
It was also suggested that the LEP should highlight HotSW’s strong track record in providing
apprenticeships as part of efforts to attract inward investors. Although this spontaneous
proposal was only made by one provider, it is included here as it appears to have merit, is
relatively uncontentious and easy to adopt.
The LEP could do an inward investment package that included a really strong
statement about Apprentices. The South West has the best success rates in country
and Devon has best in the South West. We should be shouting about this in our inward
investment offer, alongside the things we say about Higher Education, where we are
also very strong.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 101
5.28.10 Labour Market Intelligence
Finally, although providers are in regular touch with employers and have a strong feel for
employer needs on the ground, they saw the LEP has having a role in drawing tthis together
with intelligence from others sources to create useable and focused intelligence on employer
More needs to be done to specify what this would look like. However, the call from providers
was for improved intelligence on the needs of different sectors.
We would hope that the LEP could get a lot of sector-based intelligence, in terms of
pinning down employers’ needs and helping to get training providers in to meet them.
And, for improved intelligence on the needs of specific areas.
I think they need to look at what’s really required from employers from across our
region and get that into a better format. Some of the LMI that comes out isn’t specific
enough to our area and is too broad. Private Provider
102 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
The following recommendations emerged from the discussions with providers. It should be
noted that these recommendations were not raised by every provider, and that not every
recommendation made by every provider has been included. We have taken into
consideration both the frequency and consistency of provider voices making these
recommendations and the feasibility of delivering them in deciding to include them in this
HotSW LEP should develop the process and structures that enable it to consult and
communicate with providers.
HotSW LEP should identify championing the uptake of apprenticeships as being a clear
priority, particularly with SMEs and employers who have not delivered them before.
HotSW LEP should support networks of employers and young people acting as
apprenticeship ambassadors. The LEP should use its influence to ensure that these
ambassadors are able to talk to young people in schools.
HotSW LEP should act as a voice for HotSW on skills issues. It should establish clear
communication structures (highlighted above) to ensure that provider concerns are heard
and raised, and that feedback is provided.
Messages need to be taken to government on the need to improve access to
apprenticeships, to speed up the approval of new Frameworks, to ensuring national
providers do not take resources out of the area, to maintain quality and protect the interests
of rural areas where delivery can be costly and ‘critical mass’ harder to achieve.
HotSW LEP should work with the ESBs and local authorities to ensure that incentive
schemes and activities to promote apprenticeships are co-ordinated across the HotSW area.
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 103
HotSW LEP should use its influence to ensure that local authorities use apprenticeships as a
vehicle for recruiting and up-skilling their own staff and that of their contractors.
HotSW LEP needs to be clear about its priority sectors. For the present, any efforts to drive
up apprenticeship numbers in specific sectors or geographical areas should be based on
promotional activities and incentive-based schemes, not constraining growth in other areas.
HotSW LEP should trumpet the achievements and quality of local apprenticeship provision
and should use data and examples of local programmes within materials created to attract
HotSW LEP should also support improvements in local and sector-focused labour market
intelligence in the area.
104 Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West
ANNEX 1 – STEERING GROUP MEMBERS AND INTERVIEWEES
Tony Skeel Head of Relationship Team
(Devon & Torbay) Skills Funding Agency
Rob Sly Employer Services National Apprenticeships Service
Andrew Lightfoot Head of Regeneration and Resources
Economy & Enterprise Devon County Council
Nick Holmes Partnership Manager - 14+ Team Devon County Council
Craig Marshall Managing Director Devon and Cornwall Training Providers
Adele Dawson Head of Skills, Innovation and Projects South Devon College
Anita Butt Operations Manager PGL Training (Plumbing) Ltd
Chris Lorrimer Director of Enterprise Bicton College
Craig Marshall Managing Director Devon & Cornwall Training Providers
David Watson Senior Manager – Skills & Foundation Somerset Skills & Learning
Elaine Morrisey Contracts and Operations Manager Bridgwater College
Hazel Lessiter Assistant Director Acacia Training & Development Ltd
Huw Davis Director of Curriculum and Innovation PETROC
Jamie Rail Managing Director Focus Training
Jayne Lewis Vice Principal Yeovil College
John Wilkie Quality Improvement Manager SWATPro
Nicola Cove Deputy Principal City College, Plymouth
Paul Champion Head of Business Solutions Exeter College
Paul Dampier Assistant Principal Richard Huish College
Rachel Davies Principal Somerset College
Sue Parker Director of Enterprise Somerset College
Roz May Regional Manager Education & Training Skills Ltd
Shirley Theedham Deputy Principal Strode College
Simon Deane Managing Director Accountancy Plus (Training) Ltd
Stuart Prior Group Operations Director Paragon Education & Skills Ltd
Apprenticeships – Heart of the South West 105
University of Exeter
St Luke’s Campus
T: 01392 264850
F: 01392 264966