The future of apprenticeships and the impact that changes in government legislation will have on employers and training providers came under the spotlight at One Awards' Annual General Meeting.
Employers, training providers and representatives from across the education and skills sector attended the meeting at Sunderland College, where they heard from One Awards’ Chair of the Board of Trustees, David Hall, and Director of Business Development, Neale Coleman, as well as guest speakers from One Awards’ partnership organisations.
Graham Hasting-Evans, Managing Director of NOCN, a leading awarding organisation and apprenticeship assessment organisation, delivered a presentation on the apprenticeship reforms that are coming into effect from April 2017 and talked about the challenges faced by the Government that have pre-empted the need for reform.
Graham said: “Around a quarter of a million people enter the workforce each year with inadequate English and maths skills, which holds back people’s productivity and their ability to get an apprenticeship.
“With mounting pressure to increase productivity in light of Brexit and the move towards globalisation in the UK economy, the Government needed to invest more funding in upskilling the workforce.
“I think that the Government’s decision to place a higher emphasis on apprenticeships and vocational skills and learning is a good thing.”
The Apprenticeship Levy, which is being introduced on 6 April 2017, is an important factor in the fulfilment of the Government’s promise to create three million new apprenticeships over the next five years.
The levy will require all UK employers with a payroll over £3 million, to invest 0.5% in the provision of apprenticeships. All employers, whether eligible to contribute to the levy or not, will have access to funding for apprenticeship training from 1 May 2017.
Delegates at the AGM also heard from Cheryl Swales, Project Manager at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), who talked about the upcoming apprenticeship reforms and the DfE approved support programme available to all apprenticeship providers.
Cheryl said: “Graham described the apprenticeship reforms as clunky’ and I would be inclined to agree. There really are a lot of changes and challenges within the sector at present and a number of grey areas that are causing confusion amongst providers.
“The Future Apprenticeships Support Programme, commissioned and funded by the Education Training Foundation and delivered by AELP and strategic partners will help to support providers through these reforms.
“The programme focuses on areas such as delivering apprenticeship standards, end-point assessment, employer engagement and understanding the systems and processes necessary for delivering high quality apprenticeships.
“It is also vital that the Government-backed financial guarantee of at least £1b for non-levy payers is realised in order to enable SMEs to continue to offer quality apprenticeships alongside levy paying employers.”
One Awards’ Director of Business Development, Neale Coleman, delivered a short speech which summarised the organisation’s work over the last 12 months before inviting Chair of the Board of Trustees, David Hall, to the lectern.
Despite the current pressures on the education sector, David took the opportunity to reassure attendees about the solidity of the established working partnerships between learning providers and One Awards.
David said: “The education sector is a world of shifting sands at the moment and we face lots of challenges ahead, but I think that the potential shift in apprenticeship delivery is the right thing to do.
“Devolved funding arrangements and a push towards academisation within schools has left the sector in a precarious situation, but learning providers are in safe hands with One Awards.”