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News: Richard Review proposals on apprenticeships widely welcomed

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28th Nov 2012
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Recommendations that employers should be in the driving seat in relation to apprenticeship design and funding have been widely welcomed.
Another proposal put forward by the Richard Review, which was put together for the government by entrepreneur and former Dragon’s Den star, Doug Richard, was that apprenticeships should last for at least a year and genuinely train someone up to take on a new role.
The current problem was that, while there had been a rapid increase in the number of apprenticeships being offered in England over the last few years, there had also been growing concerns over quality, with some placements lasting as little as three months.
In some instances, the definition of an apprenticeship was also simply being “stretched too far” to cover all kinds of work experience. But apprentices required a “new job role, a role that is new to the individual and requires them to learn a substantial amount before they can do that job effectively”, Richard said.
This meant that apprenticeships should last for at least a year, with those that could be “measured in weeks or months” all too often falling short. The statement comes after criticism that some employers offer poor quality schemes lasting only a short amount of time in order to obtain cheap labour and government funding.
On the other hand, Richard also pointed out that the traditional relationship between employer and trainee was being lost as apprenticeships had become government-led training initiatives shaped by training professionals rather than employers.
As a result, he called for the creation of new qualifications that made it clear what someone should know and be able to do by the end of their course of training, while being broad-based enough to ensure that the skills learned were transferrable elsewhere.

Proposals warmly welcomed

These vocational qualifications should be defined by employers rather than ministers, Richards said, and be free of the “bureaucratic box-ticking assessment” and “micro-level” prescription so prevalent today.
But the qualifications would also have to be robustly tested and validated and include high grades in maths and English should a given candidate not have GCSEs in the subjects before being taken on.
Ann Pickering, HR director for mobile phone operator, O2, welcomed the proposals - as did the government, which said that it would respond in due course.
“It’s encouraging that today’s Richard Review recognises the important role of employers in raising the benchmark for apprenticeships in England,” Pickering said. “We share the view that quality is key – it’s not about the number of opportunities. It’s about the quality of those opportunities.”
Neil Carberry, the CBI’s director for employment and skills policy, was equally upbeat. “Businesses are best placed to understand their own training needs so it’s right that employers should have a greater say in apprenticeship design and which training is funded,” he said.
Putting employers in the driving seat would ensure that government funding for training was “more closely aligned with the needs of industry and future job creation”, while the idea of a skills tax credit would provide a “simple, accessible funding system”, he added.
Katerina Rudiger, skills adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, put a positive slant on the recommendations too.
She saw the clear emphasis on “employers owning the process of defining what a good apprenticeship looks like, and on funding for apprenticeships being channelled through employers” as a positive thing that would lead to “far greater employer collaboration and ownership of the apprenticeship system”.
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