Newsflash: Apprenticeship reform

apprenticesSummary:  The Government has published the outcome of its consultation on the future of apprenticeships in England, which ran from 14 March to 22 May 2013. The Future of Apprenticeships in England: Implementation Plan is available here. The Government’s aim is that new standards will replace the existing apprenticeship framework from 2017/8.

Detail:  The Plan sets out the Government’s policy, process and timescales for reform of the current apprenticeship system in England. The aim of the Plan is to ensure that apprenticeships become “more rigorous and more responsive to the needs of employers”.

New standards will replace the existing apprenticeship frameworks, governed by the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (ASCLA 2009). These new standards will be short and designed by employers, while the Government will set a “small number of criteria” that the standards must meet. There will be one new apprenticeship ‘standard’ for each occupation which will set a level of skill, knowledge and competency, against which an apprentice will be assessed.

The Government has already identified groups of employers and professional bodies (‘Trailblazers’) to design the new standards. The Trailblazers will work on sector-specific projects with the aim of providing “clear examples of effective practice and approaches which others can build on”. Despite the prevalence of large corporations identified as Trailblazers – including BAE Systems, British Gas, HSBC and Nestlé UK – the Government stresses the importance of the need for apprenticeships to work for small businesses and says that the Trailblazers will work with small businesses in their sector to ensure that the standards they develop are “widely applicable”.

Under the proposals, certain elements of an apprenticeship will become mandatory:

  • all must last at least 12 months with no exceptions for age or prior experience;
  • off-the-job training will continue to be a requirement; and
  • English and Maths requirements will be ‘stepped up’ gradually, so that all apprentices under the new scheme would be required to study Level 2 English and Maths.

Implications:  There is a long lead-in period here, but if you use apprentices then it’s worth getting to grips with the new rules a year or so before they come in.

It’s always important for your apprenticeship contracts to keep up with the current statutory requirements, including ensuring that the next batch of apprentices you take on this or next year have contracts that are fully compliant with the current ASCLA 2009 legislation, which came into effect in 2012. If you are in any doubt, we would be very pleased to review your contract and suggest any updating required.