The Tech Partnership

Quantity should not trump quality for apprenticeships, says Tech Partnership consultation

09.09.2016

Quantity should not trump quality for apprenticeships, says Tech Partnership consultation

09.09.2016

Tech employers welcome the clarification of the terms of the forthcoming apprenticeship levy, but remain concerned that there is insufficient focus on quality. This is the message from the Tech Partnership’s recent consultation on apprenticeship funding, following the Department of Education’s release of new guidance last month.

The consultation responses, which came both from employers and training providers, provide a window into current concerns on training and upskilling. There is an understanding that the underlying problem of a skills shortage needs to be addressed - “We are desperately short of skilled employees, particularly in cyber security,” wrote one respondent – and that apprenticeships can form part of the answer. “[The apprenticeship levy] has caused us to start a programme” wrote another respondent. However, another wrote: “We will continue to employ as many apprentices as our workforce strategy projects. We can’t invent jobs just to spend levy money.”

The detail of the funding arrangements continues to give concern. With fifteen funding bands proposed, some respondents find this overcomplicated. “Too many bands and quite a few anomalies with regard to the qualification levels and the funding,” wrote one, while another agreed: “Not sure whether there is a real benefit to having this many bands.” Employers are also uneasy about the levy’s exclusive focus on training costs, with no allowance for the management and administration burden. “If you really want to increase the number of apprenticeships being created, the full funding of the fully loaded cost is necessary, not just training.”

Employers are keen to see more flexibility in the use of their levy payments, with the ability to pass on a variable amount funding to their supply chains. “Given we are paying the levy we’d like to have greater control on how it’s spent,” one wrote, and another added, “The supply chain should be able to access the funding in their own right.”

Yet quality of outcome remains the main concern for both employers and providers. “Once employers get to understand the levy it will increase the quantity, but the unknown is the impact on quality,” said one respondent, while another added, “I do not feel the quality has been appropriately analysed.” As a third summed up, “If the training proposed is not of a suitable standard it will mean that we will stop our apprentice scheme regardless of the money offered.”

“Digital employers will be contributing as much as £150m to the levy, and they want to see high quality skills development as a result,” says Sian Wilson, Head of Apprenticeships on behalf of the Tech Partnership. “In particular, they want to be able to identify top notch training that meets their needs. By working together through the Tech Partnership, they are setting quality standards and accrediting the best provision as Tech Industry Gold – it’s a great example of a sector taking responsibility for its own requirements, and ensuring employers of all sizes can take on digital apprentices with confidence.”

Download the consultation results