2018-09-17

Let’s Ensure Higher and Degree Apprenticeships are a Success

Higher and Degree Apprenticeships are emerging as a success story. Employers using the Trailblazer process have and are developing Higher and Degree Apprenticeships in occupations in the public sector needed to deliver high quality public services, examples include, police constable, social worker, teacher and registered nurse. In the private sector employers have developed Higher and Degree Apprenticeships for digital, engineering and construction occupations. Degree Apprenticeships are helping ‘professionalise’ occupations, supporting employers attract new talent and supporting social mobility.

Universities have also responded to the Apprenticeship reforms with gusto, with over 100 HEIs having successfully applied to the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP). Individuals from all backgrounds are getting the concept of Degree Apprenticeship, a job and salary from day one and a degree where your employer pays your fees. Parents increasingly see Degree Apprenticeship as a highly aspirational choice rather than the good choice for other peoples’ children. We could be on the verge of transforming the quality and standing of Apprenticeship.

Unfortunately, we have ‘systems issues’ which are undermining the Apprenticeship reforms. Take funding. The ESFA procurement of Apprenticeship provision for non-levy paying employers resulted in a postcode lottery in the availability of Degree Apprenticeship provision. The failure to meet the target of transferring non-levy paying employers to the Apprenticeship Service in April 2019 means non-levy employers in many localities may continue to have no or very limited access to Degree Apprenticeship, perhaps until 2020. This is unacceptable.

The determination of Apprenticeship funding bands will also result in problems. Employers from the time of the introduction of the Apprenticeship reforms were given the impression they could recover ‘their’ levy payments when they spent on Apprenticeship provision. In reality monies raised from the levy are also needed to fund provision for non-levy paying employers and to deliver the Government’s three million Apprenticeship starts manifesto commitment. Funding bands for some Apprenticeship provision will, I suspect, be increasingly set below the cost of the Apprenticeships employers want to develop and purchase.  Indeed, the Institute for Apprenticeships defines an Apprenticeship funding band as the maximum government contribution to the cost of an Apprenticeship i.e. not necessarily the cost of the Apprenticeship. This will come as news to the majority of employers who have been sold the idea that the Apprenticeship levy is their money, in their account to spend on Apprenticeship. This raises all sorts of issues of how the Institute for Apprenticeships will ration Apprenticeship funding for specific occupations through the determination of funding bands and how funding bands are explained to employers. We’re entering interesting times.

I could go continue with a review of the issues to be resolved; quality assurance, end point assessment, progression and information, advice and guidance for your people on Apprenticeship and let’s not start on the Trailblazer process. I’d like, however, to finish on a positive. Higher and Degree Apprenticeships are and will help transform organisational performance in both the public and private sector. They will open-up new progression routes to the professions for underrepresented cohorts. I hope we can resolve the system issues that risk undermining the success of Higher and Degree Apprenticeships and we can all move on to what really matters, designing and delivering the high quality Apprenticeship provision for employers and individuals.

Adrian Anderson, Chief Executive, UVAC

Hear more from Adrian Anderson and a host of experts including the OfS, IfA and ESFA at the Annual Higher and Degree Apprenticeships Conference on Thursday 11th December 2018 in Central London.