The time is right for an Apprentice Charter26 April 2015
I’d bet that there’s never before been a UK general election with so much political capital behind Apprenticeships. Parties have been falling over themselves to impress the electorate, with promises of millions of new apprenticeships in the next parliament. Alongside promises on quantity, we have to see action on quality.
The next Government will have five years to hit their new quantity target, but NIACE has put forward proposals to get the debate on quality in Apprenticeships started in their first 100 days.
Our latest policy solutions document, ’Ten Policies: Ten People, Practical changes to improve opportunity in the first 100 days of a new Government’ shows how our thinking has developed since we published our manifesto in June 2014. We are now even more convinced that an independent quality charter would make Apprenticeships more fulfilling and more attractive to both learners and employers.
What would the Apprentice Charter achieve? Firstly, it would put the quality of the learning and working experience to the top of the agenda. An Apprenticeship can’t work if learning is poorly assessed or if the job isn’t challenging. Secondly, for too many apprentices, their pay, career and learning progression is low. The best Apprenticeships result in good jobs and further learning opportunities and we believe these opportunities should be available to every apprentice. The Charter would help employers evidence and showcase successful outcomes for their apprentices.
We also believe that now is the time we take equality of access, achievement and progression in Apprenticeships seriously. We know that people with disabilities and people from ethnic minorities are vastly under-represented in Apprenticeships and stereotypical gender dominance is rife in some sectors.
Did you know that, collectively, what the higher education sector spends on widening participation is about the same as the entire 19+ apprenticeships budget? It’s time for a widening participation agenda in Apprenticeships and there is a role here for the Charter in enabling apprentices, employers and providers to work together to break down barriers to access, achievement and progression.
NIACE is suggesting that the next Government should introduce the Apprentice Charter in to the Trailblazer programme of reform to Apprenticeship standards.
For employers, the Charter we are proposing would provide them with external recognition of their Apprenticeship programme, enabling them to attract the best candidates and encouraging other employees to undertake further training. For apprentices, the Charter would provide them with more information about the calibre of the learning and working experience they would receive. And for Government, by raising the status and quality of Apprentices, the Charter would increase return on investment by helping people get the best possible chance of a boost to their skills, earnings and productivity.