You could be forgiven for not having heard of postgraduate degree apprenticeships, also known as level 7 apprenticeships, which were launched in March 2015 with just 30 learners. But these master’s-level programmes have big potential.
The Department for Education says it expects uptake to increase when the apprenticeship levy comes into force in May. And while only a few apprenticeships are available, such as in systems engineering or digital technology solutions, there are plenty more in the works, including teaching.
With level 7 apprenticeships, students will have an undergraduate degree or equivalent, and be expected to be working for their sponsor company.
There’s a lot of talk about apprenticeships at the moment, including the dreaded apprenticeship levy.
I can imagine some schools are furious that they are going to have to pay for something that right now has no meaning to them.
I believe in the apprentice programme. My school has a strong track record in supporting apprentices.
We currently employ 13 apprentices across the school, specialising in skills such as sports tuition, business administration, finance, nursery education and specialist education.
Apprentices spend one day a week at our local college to gain a qualification in their specialist area. After two years they can seek employment or higher education.
The Skills Funding Agency has launched a new “mystery shopper” scheme to find out how prepared providers are for the new apprenticeship reforms.
The announcement was made in the online SFA Update just uploaded onto gov.uk.
It said: “To help us understand how prepared providers are for the new apprenticeship reforms, we are carrying out a ‘mystery shopper’ exercise to test aspects of apprenticeship readiness. This will enable us to identify any further support the sector may need to be ready to meet employer demand for apprenticeships.
“Please contact your provider manager if you have any queries.”
Major apprenticeship reforms are due to come into force following next week’s launch of the new apprenticeship levy, and employers are being given far more influence over the design of apprenticeship programmes and funding for them.
The government will be keen to see how prepared providers are for the changes.
Budget must deliver investment that schools ‘desperately need’, say heads and governors
Headteachers and governors have warned of the “impossible choices” they are being forced to make because of the school funding crisis.
In an open letter to the chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond ahead of his budget speech on March 8, the NAHT headteachers’ union and the National Governors’ Association call for the amount of funding per pupil to be protected.
They say school budgets are under “serious pressure” as a result of increases in costs and, while schools are doing their best to “make do”, there are “only so many financial efficiencies a school can find before reaching breaking point”.
The organisations highlight seven key areas of concern: ensuring sufficient funding, the impact of the apprenticeship levy on maintained schools, the cut to the education services grant, shortfalls in high needs funding, sufficient funding for sixth forms, funding for early years including protecting nursery schools, and automatic registration for pupil premium pupils.
Mia Angell’s 18-year-old son is expected to do well in his A-levels and has had offers from three Russell Group universities to study computer science. However, he’s also applied for a degree apprenticeship with a government organisation, after his school brought it to parents’ attention. Angell thinks that it’s a good alternative: “It makes sense for him to get some hands-on experience, get paid while he’s doing it and also get a degree at the end of it.”
This view illustrates a growing acceptance among both parents and students that apprenticeship schemes offer a good alternative to other academic routes.
Keisha Walker, head of careers and employability at Phoenix Academy in London, says there has been a surge of interest this year, from both high achievers and less academic students, particularly in subjects such as engineering and ICT. Walker does, however, sound a note of caution: “I do say to the students: ‘Apprenticeships are so competitive that you still need to apply to a university or college as a backup.”
A third of UK businesses are confused or unaware of the financial implications of the new apprenticeship levy due to be implemented in less than two months time, according to new research.
Across the country, just one in three businesses surveyed said they were fully aware of the levy, which will require all companies with a payroll totalling £3 million or more to invest 0.5 percent into the government’s apprenticeship scheme.
Coming into effect in April, it is hoped that the new charge will help the government reach its target of three million apprentices by 2020.
But new research published today by City & Guilds reveals that only 31 percent of respondents are planning to increase their number of apprentices, with 15 percent claiming that they would be forced to cut other recruitment schemes in order to offset the costs of the levy.
Of the 500 senior business leaders surveyed, nearly a quarter, or 23 percent, were unaware of the changes to the apprenticeship system, whilst 28 percent said they did not know whether they would be required to contribute when the levy commences in April.
Colleges working closely with employers could help with the so-called ‘image problem’ of apprenticeships, writes one college executive.
According to reports in the media, apprenticeships are great. They’re becoming more and more popular and have huge backing from the government, so it seems odd to read in a survey that more than 90 per cent of 18-24 year olds aren’t interested in starting one. So what’s going on?
The survey results suggest that apprenticeships have an image problem, and young people, along with two-thirds of people aged over 55, thought that going to university would be a much better career option. The biggest reason for this is said to be poor careers advice being given at school.
But figures and student stories would suggest that there has never been a better time to start an apprenticeship. Nationally, there were almost 500,000 apprenticeships started in 2014-15, which was a 12 per cent increase from the year before.
The government has finally announced the eight Institute for Apprenticeships board members (listed below), with the chair to be confirmed at a later date.
This will come as a relief to the sector after FE Week’s front page last week reported concern that the government remained silent on board members and other permanent leadership posts, under three months before the Institute become “fully operational”.
The Department for Education advertised for paid board members last June, and they comprise of a majority of employers as planned, but two are serving college principals.
This has been welcomed by chief executive of the Association of Colleges David Hughes, but the immediate response from the independent training provider sector was one of disappointment that it is not represented (see quotes below).
The government has also published the long-awaited IfA operational plan which “sets out how the Institute for Apprenticeships will take forward the programme of reform and raise the quality of apprenticeships.”
Responsibilities for integrity, quality and funding give the new Institute for Apprenticeships a potentially vital and lasting role in the national skills infrastructure but only if its role is fully formed and it has the space to both support and constructively challenge the progress that the reforms are making.
The introduction of the levy sees a fundamental shift in the balance of funding away from the public purse and firmly towards employers. The Institute is therefore a very welcome further manifestation of employer ownership and leadership. It needs to do the job that businesses need while ensuring it secures the support and confidence of three million more (mostly) young people whose lives will be shaped by their Apprenticeship experiences.
While it has taken a long time for the detail of the new Institute for Apprenticeships to be revealed, at least in draft form, there are reasons to believe that this body can make a difference if responses to the consultation pick up on the big opportunities that are presented.