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Jon Kennard

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News: Unionlearn gives evidence to Select Committee on apprenticeships

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Unionlearn Director Tom Wilson today gave evidence to the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee. The Session was part of the committee’s inquiry on apprenticeships.
  
Tom Wilson said:
“Quality & quantity have been seen too often as opposed to each other. But actually, quality can improve quantity as employers are more likely to take on apprentices if they see it as a quality brand. This shows the value of having Union Learning Representatives (ULRs): workers trust their endorsement, which improves quality and take-up levels. ULRs are a voice for the apprentice in the workplace which helps develop really high quality apprenticeships.”
When questioned about encouraging small businesses to take on more apprentices he said:
“There needs to be a much stronger partnership between employers, unions, colleges and SMEs. A very important route to encourage SMEs to take on apprentices is through the supply chain. Small businesses then compete over the quality of their apprenticeships, raising quality for all concerned.”
“The key is persuading employers of the value and business benefits to them of taking on apprenticeships. Where unions are engaged with employers, we can persuade them to do more than they would have anyway, which also helps to avoid deadweight.”
When discussing how to encourage take up of apprenticeships Tom Wilson said:
“We should encourage much more employer and education interaction. Early engagement by employers in schools can have a really positive effect.
Unionlearn also works closely with the teacher unions, who want to deliver good quality careers advice including on apprenticeship. However, they are sometimes discouraged to do so because of the impact on league tables. The model currently works against schools encouraging the take up of apprenticeships.”
Finally when discussing different delivery models currently funded by the Government, and their impact on quality standards, he said:
“Unionlearn believes that the Apprenticeship Training Agency model is fundamentally at odds with what a genuine employment relationship [should be like]. Once you damage the employment relationship, you damage the heart of what an apprenticeship is.
If your competitor is doing something much cheaper than you, you have to do the same or be driven out of business. That's why there must be minimum standards to ensure quality providers aren't driven out. Light-touch regulation, use of procurement, descriptions of training take-up and advancement and tax-relief targeted to high quality apprenticeships could all help to ensure minimum quality standards.”

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Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

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