Apprenticeships have enjoyed a fair share of the limelight so far this year. Not only did March’s National Apprenticeship Week take place soon after the increase in the apprentice wage rate and forthcoming introduction of the apprenticeship levy, but also in the wake of the Government announcing its aim to fund some three million new apprenticeships by 2020, which the levy will help to fund. There’s been a positive start on that front, with participation in apprenticeship schemes up to a record 871,000 during the 2014/15 tax year.
But if apprenticeships are going to hit such heady heights in the future, they are undoubtedly going to need the support of small and medium-sized enterprises, who make up well in excess of 99% of all UK businesses. Many of those companies are already realising the benefits of having apprentices on board, with our latest research showing that two in five (39%) of those SMEs with at least ten employees in place took on at least one new apprentice in the past twelve months. That figure falls, however, to just one in ten (10%) of companies that have less than ten employees, demonstrating how those smallest businesses may have greater time and resource constraints when it comes to introducing an effective apprenticeship scheme.
The government has today announced the employer time limit on using their levy funds, due for introduction in April 2017.
The news came in an updated guide to the apprenticeship levy and “how it will work” web page, published this afternoon.
An apprenticeship levy operating guide for employers, to be published in April, had been promised in last month’s budget.
The latest version of the guidance stated: “Funds will expire 18 months after they enter your digital account unless you spend them on apprenticeship training,”.
It continued: “Whenever a payment is taken from your digital account it will automatically use the funds that entered your account first. This will minimise the amount of expired funds.”
The apprenticeship levy, first announced by the government in July, is set at 0.5 per cent of an employer’s paybill.
The national curriculum should finish at the age of 14, in order to give teenagers time to prepare for the work place, a report by the House of Lords has said.
According to the Committee on Social Mobility, young people should be able to choose before the age of 16 whether they want to pursue an academic or a vocational route beyond mainstream school, as the current system from 16-18 doesn’t recognise that “transitions to work take longer for some young people”.
The report suggested that this could help correct the historic “high drop out” rate from education post-GCSE, which according to a 2012 study from the OECD, saw the UK rank 26th out of 34 countries for participation rates at 17 (87 per cent, compared with the OECD average of 90 per cent).
It added that careers education should be present in school from the age of 11, warning that the current system for those who choose not to attend university was “complex and incoherent” leaving many young people “disengaged”.
Last year, education foundation, the Sutton Trust, published some encouraging statistics.
According to researchers, the best apprentices – those with a level 5 qualification – could earn £50,000 more in their lifetime than someone with an undergraduate degree from a university outside of the Russell Group.
For those who were still holding onto the belief that university was the only route to a rewarding career, the report was just the latest piece of evidence pointing to the contrary.
Over the last two years, there have been an estimated 30,000 higher apprenticeships created with more predicted thanks to the Government’s focus on creating three million apprenticeships by 2020.
Whether you agree with this goal – and, as I have written previously, many do not – or with the methods being used to obtain it, it’s certainly positive that young people are being increasingly offered viable alternatives to higher education.
The government has sought to re-assure small and medium-sized employers (SMEs) there will be enough apprenticeship levy money left over for them.
Skills Minister Nick Boles has re-emphasised plans to make SMEs rely on unspent apprenticeship levy funds from larger companies to pay for their training.
Mr Boles told the House of Commons this afternoon that the £2.5bn raised by the levy for training in England would be expected to stretch to cover all employers with apprentices, regardless of their size.
The apprenticeship levy will only be paid by employers with a payroll of more than £3m, which has led to questions over whether smaller companies which aren’t contributing to the levy pot will continue to receive the funding they currently get from government.
But Mr Boles told Parliament today that he expected SMEs to “carry on spending money on apprenticeships, receiving government money for apprenticeships” in the same way that they do now, funded by levy proceeds not used by larger organisations.
The shakeup would be designed to make grades more comparable across subjects.
English GCSEs could be made harder to ensure fewer students get top marks under proposals by the exams regulator, Ofqual.
This would mean around a quarter of pupils taking these exams could fail to get the crucial “pass” grade as the shakeup would make grades more comparable across subjects.
However, the plans have been met with resistance from teachers who argue this change would be “unfair” on pupils and would have “devastating” consequences, according to a report in the Times Educational Supplement (TES).
Under the current plans, those taking subjects seen as easier, like arts and English, would find it more difficult to get high marks. This would make comparisons across subjects, say between art and physics, much easier.
An inquiry has been launched into the Government’s target of three million apprentices by 2020 following “uncertainty” over how the system will work.
An inquiry has been launched into the “ambitious” apprenticeships target, following concerns about how the Government intends to achieve its aims.
The creation of three million apprenticeships by 2020 was one of the Conservative Party’s key pledges during the election campaign last year, however, critics have said that standards could be affected in the drive to achieve these high numbers.
Now, a sub-committee has launched an inquiry into the apprenticeship system, which will look at how the Government proposes to achieve this target and how it may affect industries with a skills shortage.
The group will also look at how standards in the apprenticeship system can be maintained and enforced and will also consider the proposals for the new apprenticeships levy first reported in the summer Budget.
The National Union of Students has launched a campaign to force the government to recognise the impact that post-16 area reviews are having on learners.
The launch of #FEunplugged was officially announced on Wednesday.
An NUS spokesperson said the aim was to “raise the profile of [post-16 education and training] area reviews and make sure the student voice is not ignored during the process”.
As part of the campaign, the union will be asking students across the country what is most important for keeping them in college. The spokesperson explained this would help decide the issues that the union wants the government to address through the area review process.
Schools must allow access to apprenticeship providers and colleges to create a level playing field in careers guidance.
Schools must give equal airtime to the non-academic routes pupils can take post-16, under government plans to end the ‘second class’ perception of technical and professional education (TPE).
A new law would see apprenticeship providers and staff from colleges visit schools as part of careers advice from early secondary school, to talk to pupils about the opportunities open to them through apprenticeships or other TPE routes.
The move follows concerns from ministers about careers advice, with some schools currently unwilling to recommend apprenticeships or other technical and professional routes to any but the lowest-achieving pupils – effectively creating a 2-tiered system of careers advice.
This builds on the Prime Minister’s life chances speech in which he set out his ambitions to create an education system fit for the 21st century.
Academic says rather than looking to ban technology and “demonise” it, parents should pay more attention on how their children interact.
Banning mobile phones and other technology in the classroom is “moving in the wrong direction”, an academic has said, as he warns children will keep using technology anyway.
Instead, according to Professor Paul Howard-Jones, teachers and parents should look at how pupils are interacting with the technology.
His comments came as his research suggested playing computer games could help boost pupils’ concentration levels and improve their results in the classroom.
The study found that turning learning into a game helps stop the mind from wandering, allowing students to study better.
Professor Howard-Jones, who conducted the research, said computer games have been “trivialised” in recent years, but that used properly, they can help to accelerate pupils’ learning.