Newspaper asks: are educators ready for apprenticeship reforms?

‘There is plenty to admire in the government’s plans to beef up apprenticeships, funded from a levy that came into force this month on all companies with a payroll of more than £3m a year. The scheme will provide an extra 3m apprenticeships, which the government believes will help fill the skills and productivity gap that dogs the British economy. Everyone, from the CBI to the TUC and the main parties, has signed up and wants it to succeed. But it is coming in helter-skelter, with important details unresolved, and it is going to be bolted on to a system that needs much deeper change if it is to deliver genuinely higher skills and social mobility in Sheffield and Newcastle as well as in London.

The biggest flaw is that, like so many other government initiatives, this latest attempt to boost the number of apprenticeships could have been designed to be gamed. Experience has surely shown by now that setting a target, generating the cash, and launching the scheme before systems of monitoring and assessment are up and running is an open invitation for employers to cheat. So there is nothing to stop them, say, rebadging existing training or other professional development programmes, or offering low-skill apprenticeships in business administration or customer service.

Employers complain that the levy is a tax by another name even though their contribution can be reclaimed, with a Whitehall top-up of an extra 10%, as long as it goes on apprenticeships. More problematic is that since most of the levy will be raised in London, it will be spent in London – not so good for Manchester, say, or Liverpool. It is also being levied on the public sector, which can ill afford it.’ - Guardian

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