Ann Watson, managing director of EAL, has responded to the BIS Select Committee’s report on apprenticeships.
She said, “This constant battle for quality over quantity is a moot point. Yes, we need to ensure that apprenticeships provision is of the highest standard. Learners must be given the best possible start to their careers, with rigorous assessment and training over a period of years rather than months.
“But we must also ensure that we are boosting the number of apprenticeships in the UK, to meet skills demands in sectors such as engineering and manufacturing, bring down the number of those NEETs [not in education, employment or training] and provide people with an alternative and equally valuable pathway to higher education. Whilst a focus on quality is extremely important, and this should be a key focus, we must also ensure that more businesses have the opportunity to employ apprentices.
“The BIS Select Committee report highlights a number of welcome points. Chief among them is a recommendation that schools should be required to publish the number of apprenticeship starts each year, alongside the number of university places gained by their pupils, so that vocational and academic progression are valued equally in terms of both the level and quality of resources.
“A clear definition of apprenticeships would also help weed out programmes that are not up to standard, providing employers and learners with reassurance over the quality of provision. An overarching apprenticeships strategy, with a balanced approach to learners of all ages, would also help in monitoring the programme’s efficiency, ensuring goals are met and giving older learners an equal opportunity of re-training and finding new employment through this valuable vocational pathway.”