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James Flanagan

Freelance Training Consultant

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The government and apprenticeships pt1

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In part one of a five part series, James Flanagan and Polly Newport explore the Coalition Goverment's apprenticeship strategy.

Funding and numbers

The increasing importance this government attaches to apprenticeships is seen in the paper 'Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth [1]: published in 2010 by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It outlined the principles of fairness and shared responsibility which underpin their investment strategy, to create a Further Education (FE) system which will deliver a lifelong approach to learning, nurturing, sustainable economic growth and social renewal.
The following year, Dec 2011 they issued an update, Skills Investment Statement 2011 – 2014: Investing in a World Class Skills System in which they pledged 'to continue to focus that investment on high quality provision that delivers good value for money and our focus will remain on young adults, the low skilled and those who are unemployed'.
The report outlines the budgets and planned number of learners over the coming years; the overall investment in adult FE and Skills will be £3.8bn in the 2012-13 Financial Year (FY) - of this, £3.6bn will be routed through the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) to support the capacity for nearly 3 million learners. This will reduce to £3.4bn in the 2013-14 FY and £3.3bn by the 2014-15 FY. The teaching and learning budget in 2012 - 13 FY will be £3bn, of which there will be a minimum expectation that £698m will be available to support apprenticeships for adults aged 19 or over. Funding for workplace training will be focused on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with fewer than 250 employees.
 
"Given the Coalition Government's commitment to skills training and apprenticeships in particular, coupled with the increase in the age to which young people are remaining in education, 16 - 18 year olds apprenticeships numbers are likely to increase."
The European Social Fund (ESF) is a European Union (EU) Structural Fund that adds value to member states' employment and skills policies, in line with the EU's strategy for growth and jobs. The ESF programme currently runs from 2007 to 2013 and provides the Skills Funding Agency with investment of £1.2bn. To date, the Skills Funding Agency has used ESF to fund around 600,000 learners in adult learning provision, and has spent £575m.
This area is one of the few areas of government expenditure in the lifetime of this Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) which is earmarked for growth (e.g. from £605m in 2011/12 to £648m in 2012/13 with 75,000 more apprenticeship starts by 2014/15 circa £187m). Invariably apprenticeship funding is paid directly to the organisation that provides and supports the apprenticeship delivery.
The ALP (Association of Learning Providers) agrees totally in the need for the vocational route, and vocational qualifications to be given the same respect as the academic route, and academic qualifications – always described in the past as 'parity of esteem'.
This suggests that apprenticeships will be seen as a viable alternative to university in the UK skills market. 
Given the Coalition Government's commitment to skills training and apprenticeships in particular, coupled with the increase in the age to which young people are remaining in education (including in an apprenticeship) 16 - 18 year olds apprenticeships numbers are likely to increase (funding is increasing to £799m in 2012/13). 
Even if there were no increase in 16 - 18 year old apprenticeships by 2013/14, the combined level of apprenticeships would be likely to be in excess of 400,000. 
The CSR in October 2010 set budgets within the public sector for three years to 2013/14. This CSR saw the Department for Business Innovation and Skills budget cut by some 25% (amongst the largest in government). In spite of this, the Government agenda for skills, given the importance of vocational training to the broader economy, means that the overall funding for apprenticeships rose by 17% in 2011/12 and will continue to rise. 
This has been achieved by scrapping the Train to Gain (T2G) initiative and the funds redeployed to support additional apprenticeship. Consequently, Government investment in apprenticeship is increasing by £250m over the spending review period. There was £548m of funding for apprenticeship in 2010/11, £605m in 2011/12 and there is an indicative budget of £648m for 2012/13. 

[1] BIS: Investing in Sustainable Skills for Growth 2010

James Flanagan and Polly Newport are directors of Ardanaire

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James Flanagan

Freelance Training Consultant

Read more from James Flanagan
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