‘Sir Michael Wilshaw: End apprenticeships for making coffee and cleaning floors’

Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw is expected to criticise apprenticeship providers who accredit low level skills.

Apprenticeships are being awarded for “low-level” skills like making coffee and mopping floors, the head of Ofsted is expected to say this week.

The Government has committed to delivering three million apprenticeships in the next five years, but chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw will accuse employers and providers of wasting taxpayer money on poor quality qualifications.

Learners are not being stretched by low-level apprenticeships, which are especially common in service jobs like retail and care, according to an Ofsted report.

Unscrupulous providers are accrediting skills like making coffee and cleaning floors, with some recruits unaware they are even on an apprenticeship programme.

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‘New Ofqual framework to focus on outcomes’

Ofqual’s replacement for the Qualifications Credit Framework (QCF) will give awarding organisations more freedom to review and develop their qualifications, the watchdog’s vocational qualifications boss has said.

The new Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), which comes into force on October 1, will take away the rules and structure of the QCF and instead focus on outcomes.

Speaking at the Skills and Employability Summit in London, on Thursday (September 17), executive director for vocational qualifications at Ofqual Jeremy Benson said: “A valid qualification must assess skills and knowledge sufficiently well.

“It enables assessment results to be interpreted and used appropriately, and allowing people to be confident that those results can be relied upon.

“Having a detailed set of rules specific to vocational qualifications is not the best way of securing validity,” he added.

Mr Benson said that the change is part of Ofqual’s aim to improve people’s confidence in vocational qualifications, and comes after a review and consultation over the QCF, carried out over the past year.

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Apprentice numbers ‘disaster’

The number of young people employed as apprentices in England is “a disaster” and Ofsted inspectors will be ensuring schools are promoting “all the options” to learners, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has told MPs.

Sir Michael appeared in front of the new education select committee on Wednesday (September 16), where he faced questions about the role of Ofsted.

Quizzed by MPs about the importance of destination data for both schools and colleges, Sir Michael said an “important” line of questioning for school head teachers would be about post-16 options and careers advice.

He said: “What’s really important for inspections of secondary schools is that HMI ask questions about post-16 provision, whether schools and head teachers of secondary schools are providing youngsters with all the information that they need to make good choices and not restricting that information to get youngsters into their own sixth form.”

“That’s really important and that’s going to be a big emphasis this year. We are going to be asking a lot more about careers guidance than ever before,” he added.

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‘Apprenticeships aren’t just for the young’

Once thought to be the territory of school leavers and those under 25, the concept of internships and apprenticeships is undergoing a change – albeit very slowly.

While work placements for anyone over the age of 25 may seem like a pipe dream in the real world, Hollywood seems to be enthralled by the idea.

This months’, ‘The Intern‘ will see Robert De Niro starring as a 70-year-old widower who becomes a senior intern at an online fashion website and 2013’s, similarly named, ‘The Internship‘ saw Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play middle-aged, recently redundant, salesmen who quickly learn the world doesn’t cater to them anymore.

For a growing number of people, an internship (often unpaid) or an apprenticeship is seen as a necessary and vital step towards employment.

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‘New quality and access to apprenticeship fund proposed by Niace’

The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace) has called for a new fund to help improve the quality and access to apprenticeships.

The proposal was part of its submission, lodged with partner organisation the Centre for Social Inclusion (Inclusion), to a consultation which closed on Friday (September 4) on the government’s 2015 spending review.

A Niace spokesperson said that the new fund should be “ring-fenced from funding raised through the [proposed] apprenticeship levy” for large employers.

It would be invested in “widening access to apprenticeships from underrepresented groups and fund employer-led quality initiatives to enhance outcomes for apprentices and businesses”, the spokesperson added.

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‘Broken Boles promise leads to Trailblazer criticism’

Skills Minister Nick Boles has broken his promise to the House of Commons Education Select Committee that there would be “many fewer” new apprenticeship Trailblazer standards than the frameworks they will replace by 2017.

He told committee members in January that he was worried about the “unbelievable proliferation” in the number of frameworks, which currently stands at 334, adding “what I promise you we will achieve, is many fewer standards”.

But Graham Stuart, who was chair of the committee at the time, has hit out at the government’s streamlining effort after it was revealed that more than 350 standards have already either been delivered or are being developed.

The Conservative MP said that Mr Boles “told my then committee earlier this year that there was an ‘unbelievable proliferation’ of different standards and this represents a missed opportunity to address the problem”.

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“CBI demands ‘formal consultation’ on government proposals for apprenticeship levy”

Employers should be consulted on the “scope and rate” of a new apprenticeship levy and have “real control” over the whole apprenticeships system, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said.

In a briefing note on the levy, which was announced by Chancellor George Osborne in his July budget, the CBI predicted the levy would be “around 0.5 per cent of payroll” and “is likely to include all businesses with 250 employees or more”.

The CBI has also used the briefing to expand on its earlier concerns and raise new ones, including that a consultation currently running on the levy only covers its implementation, with “no formal commitment to consult on the scope or rate of the levy”.

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“Functional Skills should continue to be the main alternative English and Maths qualifications to GCSEs”

The Education and Training Foundation has been asked to draw up a “programme of reform” for functional skills qualifications, Skills Minister Nick Boles has announced.

In a letter to providers, Mr Boles said he was tasking the Foundation with coming up with ideas to make the qualifications a “well-respected and credible” alternative to GCSEs.

It comes after an ETF review of the qualifications led by former Jersey principal Professor Ed Sallis earlier this year found they were “not broken, but could be improved”.

In his letter, Mr Boles said: “In my previous letter, I mentioned that I had commissioned the Education and Training Foundation to carry out a review of the best way to achieve and accredit maths and English in post-16 education outside of GCSEs.

“The Foundation’s recommendations, published in March 2015, provide valuable new evidence for improving the quality and recognition of functional skills qualifications to ensure they meet the needs of employers and learners.

“I believe that Functional Skills should continue to be the main alternative English and Maths qualifications to GCSEs. However, to be well-respected and credible, it is critical they suit employers’ needs and are properly taught and assessed.

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Warning against ‘churning out numbers’ at expense of quality in drive for 3m apprenticeships

Mr Woodcock was part of a panel of FE and skills experts who spoke at a House of Commons event last night hosted by the Young Fabians Education Network (YFEN) about the prospects for England’s apprenticeship system over the five-year lifetime of the newly-elected Conservative government.

He said that he had “grave misgivings” about the 3m target spelled out in the Conservative Party’s General Election manifesto.

“We [the last Labour government] were battered over what we can now admit was an overly targeted approach to, for example, health service reform,” he said.

“It did in some cases skew the system towards churning out numbers at the expense of quality and that is [now] a huge concern for apprenticeships.

“If those apprenticeships do not genuinely embed people in the world of work and set them up for a future profession, then we are doing a disservice to those young people coming into them.”

Another panellist at the event, which had around 50 audience members and was entitled ‘Beyond 3m: A successful apprenticeships system for the UK’, was director of early careers at Barclays Bank, Mike Thompson (pictured right).

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