Apprenticeship reforms come under fire

apprenticeshipThe Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has criticised Government announcements on apprenticeship funding reform, calling experimentation with current training schemes
“irresponsible and foolish”.

Following a consultation on planned changes to apprenticeship funding carried out in 2014, skills and equalities minister Nick Boles has announced that employers will be responsible for co-investment in apprenticeships, with every œ2 spent by Government to be dependent on œ1 from an employer.

In a statement released on January 13, Mr. Boles said:

“Our reforms are underpinned by the principle that the purchasing power for investing in apprenticeship training should also lie with the employer.

“Giving employers direct control of apprenticeship funding remains a core and non-negotiable part of our reforms.”

This reform gained particular disapproval from respondents to last year’s consultation, particularly smaller employers who linked the principle of cash co-investment to uncertainty about actual funding levels.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said:

“Today’s announcement by the Skills Minister offers no clarity or reassurance regarding the future of apprenticeship funding. Despite the business community – across many sectors – repeatedly warning government of the potential impact of their proposed reforms on the desire and ability of SMEs to train apprentices, we have been told that giving employers direct control of apprenticeship funding remains a non-negotiable part of the reforms.

“If SME firms – particularly micro-firms – are asked to pay for apprenticeship training up front it will have a negative impact on cash flow and increase levels of bureaucracy no matter how simple the system is.”

Mr. Berry added:

“I urge Government to think again and not to undermine the construction recovery which is tentatively moving in the right direction, but could easily be set off course if we don’t have enough new skilled workers entering the industry.

“To experiment with apprenticeship training at such a time and against the advice of large swathes of the business community is irresponsible and foolish.”

The plans are likely to go through despite this disapproval. Mr. Boles said in his statement:

“The principle that employers should make a cash contribution towards the cost of their apprentices’ training remains a significant part of our reform of apprenticeships, but I will ensure that the new funding model is implemented so that it is simple, efficient and appealing to employers of all size – including businesses taking on an apprentice for the first time.”

To view Nick Boles’ statement, and the Government’s response to the Apprenticeship funding reform in England: payment mechanisms and funding principles consultation, click here

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