Finding a way forward for part-time and flexible apprenticeships

12 July 2017

L&W welcomes the release of the Taylor Review of modern working practices, and while there is much of note in the report, we are pleased it specifically discusses recent changes that allow apprenticeships to be completed part-time. But even the closest observers of apprenticeship policy might be forgiven for asking ‘what changes?’, as policy documents have not discussed this explicitly.

In 2016, then Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Nick Boles said in response to written questions:

‘Apprenticeships are full-time jobs; therefore an apprentice should work at least 30 hours per week. In exceptional circumstances, such as where the apprentice has caring responsibilities, a minimum of 16 hours per week may be agreed between the apprentice and the employer.’

The message being that part-time apprenticeships were the exception and certainly not the rule. However, recent funding guidance has been clearer about the role of part-time and flexible apprenticeships, and discusses how rules for minimum duration and off-the-job training would apply where a part-time working pattern is needed, or if an apprentice has a zero-hours contract. The document states that:

‘Working fewer than 30 hours a week or being on a zero-hours contract must not be a barrier to successfully completing an apprenticeship. We will monitor working hours data and patterns of behaviour to ensure that sufficient regular training and on-the-job activity is done to ensure successful completion of the apprenticeship, regardless of the number of hours worked. We reserve the right to take action where alternative working patterns are not managed appropriately, leading to a reduction in the quality of the apprenticeship.’

To date examples of apprenticeships being delivered part-time or flexibly have been few and far between, but with excellent examples such as the Camden Council apprenticeship programme showing how these can benefit both individuals and employers.

We are encouraged to see that the Taylor Review recognises the potential created by part-time and flexible apprenticeships, but we now need to further consider how this might work in practice so providers and employers can offer and deliver these successfully. L&W are delighted to be teaming up with the Timewise, Young Women’s Trust and Trust for London to better understand the barriers and potential solutions to delivering part-time and flexible apprenticeships.

We will be engaging with key stakeholders, providers, employers, learners, and part-time and flexible workers in order to:

  • increase understanding of the likely demand for and benefits of part-time and flexible apprenticeships; and
  • allow comprehensive mapping of barriers to the design and delivery of part-time apprenticeships, and how these can be overcome.

The findings from the work will be used to develop and test a model that works for employers and groups that are under-represented in apprenticeships, including: women balancing work with family life, people with disabilities, people with unpaid caring responsibilities, and young people leaving the care system. The project also aims to benefit businesses which are experiencing skills shortages, particularly in areas where women are under-represented like construction and engineering.

We look forward to sharing findings and best practice from the project in due course.

For further information about this project, or if you are a provider or employer who would like to be involved in the research or pilot, please contact: Liz Davies, Senior Researcher, liz.davies@learningandwork.org.uk