It’s been a couple of months since I wrote my last blog setting new standards for apprenticeships.
31 July 2019 marks one year to go until all remaining apprenticeship frameworks are withdrawn. From 1 August 2020 all new apprenticeship starts will be on the high-quality, reformed apprenticeship standards.
As we reach the one-year milestone, I look at how much progress has been made. You can also find details on how to sign up for the apprenticeship standards and withdrawal of frameworks webinar that we’re holding on 31 July 2019 from 2 - 2.30pm to help employers and training providers to prepare.
Where it all began
Before the apprenticeship reforms, one third of apprentices reported that they didn’t know that they were on an apprenticeship at all, and one fifth reported that they had never received any training. Apprenticeship frameworks were criticised by employers for failing to meet employer needs, accrediting skills that learners already had, and being too complex, with a large number of qualifications but no check of an apprentice’s ability to do the job at the end.
Standards were designed to address these concerns. They are concise documents, developed by employers who know the skills, knowledge and behaviours their business and sector needs to become competent in distinct occupational roles. To ensure quality, every standard is a minimum of 12 months long, with apprentices spending at least 20% of their time in off-the-job training. Each standard has an end-point assessment to check all apprentices are job-ready.
The first 12 standards, across digital, legal, and engineering routes, were approved at the end of 2014. In 2015, we published our 2020 Vision, in which we committed to improving the quality of apprenticeships. This included an assurance to keep “employers at the heart of apprenticeship design and delivery” and “a focus on what apprentices can do at the end of an apprenticeship”. In short, our vision was to create high-quality apprenticeships developed by employers, to fully meet their requirements.
Four years later
Over the last four years, we are seeing this vision realised. The number and variety of new standards designed, developed by and available to employers is growing and growing. By the end of 2015 there were around 65 standards available. Today, there are over 470 apprenticeship standards approved, and a further 130 in development. These span across all 15 technical education routes and range from level 2 (GCSE equivalent) to level 7 (Master’s degree equivalent). Apprentices can now train in a huge variety of jobs, including research scientist, fishmonger, photographic assistant and space engineer, to name but a few.
As availability of standards grows, we are seeing employers make a natural transition. In the first half of 2018/19, almost 60% of all apprenticeship starts were on standards, compared with just 37% in the first half of 2017/18.
And we are already seeing the impact of standards on the quality of apprenticeships. For example, the expected number of off-the-job training hours per apprenticeship has increased by 26% over the past year, and the average duration of an apprenticeship increased by 14% from 2016/17 to 2017/18.
The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education took responsibility for maintaining the overall quality of the apprenticeships system in 2017. They have built up a network of over 100 industry leaders across 15 sectors to make up its route panels which ensure that each apprenticeship standard approved meets robust industry requirements.
In a year’s time, all remaining frameworks will be withdrawn, and 100% of new apprenticeship starts will be on standards (though any learners who have already started a framework at this point will be able to complete it). This will benefit employers as they will be able to trust that their apprentices will become fully competent at their job, and it will benefit learners who will get high-quality and transferable training that will help them progress in sustainable and long-term careers.
If you are an employer or training provider who is still using apprenticeship frameworks, now is the time to start planning your move to standards. You can see all the standards currently available for delivery and in development on the Institute’s website.
There is also support available for training providers and end-point assessment organisations through the Education and Training Foundation, who have created useful resources to support the delivery of the reforms.
And if you cannot find a standard to meet your business need, then now is the time to consider whether it would be appropriate to create a new standard. For more information on what’s involved, and the criteria, please contact the Institute: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’d like more information on what the withdrawal of frameworks means for you, and a chance to ask questions, please join us at our webinar at 2pm on 31 July 2019. The webinar will also be uploaded to the ESFA YouTube channel so you can still watch it if you’re unable to on the day.