Today the Education Select Committee published the report of its recent inquiry into apprenticeships.
The key conclusion of the report is “that too many apprentices are simply not getting the high-quality training they deserve and too many people, particularly the young and disadvantaged, are not being given the support the need to pursue an apprenticeship and get on in life.”
These concerns reflect the main thrust of the TUC’s written evidence and oral evidence to the inquiry and it is welcome that the committee is recommending a range of actions to address these challenges. For example, the report highlights the link between poor-quality apprenticeships and low wages and the need to address this by moving to abolition of the apprenticeship minimum wage and introducing much stronger penalties for employers who don’t pay the legal minimum.The TUC has been campaigning for an approach along these lines for a number of years.
Other recommendations that are especially welcome include:
- Making sure that training providers delivering poor-quality training are tackled at a very early stage and that sub-contracted apprenticeship training is investigated much more closely
- Empowering people to progress to higher level apprenticeships instead of being trapped in low level training
- Improving funding incentives, including apprenticeship levy reforms, to support more people from disadvantaged groups to access high-quality apprenticeships and requiring EHRC to conduct an equality and diversity review every three years
- Removing disincentives in the benefit system and getting government to act on its policy commitment of reducing travel costs for apprentices
- Making sure all young people get proper careers advice on apprenticeships and introducing a national UCAS-style application process.
It is also welcome that the committee acknowledges the need to strengthen the voice of apprentices, including by boosting their direct role in the work of the Institute of Apprenticeships. However, what the report fails to address is the need to strengthen union engagement in the apprenticeship system at a strategic level as is the case in all other European countries with a reputation for providing high quality apprenticeship training for a large proportion of their citizens.
Whilst we understand the call for more flexibility around delivery of the required 20% of working time spent on off-the-job training, the reality is that many apprentices currently receive little or no off-the-job training, so any new flexibilities should be exercised to increase training and not as an excuse to avoid it.
Commenting on the report, Kevin Rowan, unionlearn Director, said:
There is much to welcome in the Select Committee’s report and many of the recommended reforms would go some way to opening up high-quality apprenticeships to a much wider cohort of people, especially those facing the greatest barriers.
Trade unions play a major role in promoting high-quality apprenticeships, including by negotiating apprenticeship agreements with employers and also through strategic discussions at local, regional and sector levels.