Apprenticeships are once again high on the skills agenda this week, with the launch of a renewed advertising campaign promoting Apprenticeships to employers, and the announcement of the winning bidders for the £7m Government funding for new Apprenticeship Training Agencies (ATAs) and Group Training Associations (GTAs).
The funding will support the launch of nine new ATAs and three new GTAs, which offer new ways of delivering Apprenticeships within a range of organisations, particularly small businesses. This aims to support the delivery of 14,000 new Apprenticeship places for young people over the next three years. The winning bidders include organisations and partnerships including private training providers, FE colleges, a National Skills Academy, Sector Skills Council and a County Council.
The ATA model is especially innovative, with only one such organisation having previously been established in the UK; this builds on good practice shared from Australia where such organisations are more established. ATAs are companies or partnerships that act as a recruitment agency, taking on apprentices and placing them with ‘host’ employers, giving employers the flexibility to take on an apprentice as and when they have need.
The funding is also supporting the expansion of GTAs, which have been established in the UK since the 1960s. GTAs help smaller employers to share expertise with others in their sector to develop and deliver dedicated training. The winning bids for the new ATAs and GTAs support the expansion of Apprenticeships in sectors identified as having potential for growth in the number of Apprenticeships offered, as well as strategic sectors identified by the Government as vital for future economic success.
The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) has also highlighted that they are currently working with Rathbone, a voluntary youth sector organisation, and a number of third sector stakeholders to develop a GTA-type proposal to support an increase in Apprenticeships with employers in the third sector.
CFE’s work in a number of areas has informed today’s announcements. CFE was commissioned by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (now the department for Business, Innovation and Skills) to develop the criteria for assessing the bids for the ATA/GTA funding, and to explore ATA and GTA models in Australia. For more information on CFE’s involvement, click here. CFE also conducted a review of Third Sector engagement with Apprenticeships on behalf of the LSC in the South East, which recommended the development of an ATA for the third sector.
The GTA/ATA funding and the advertising campaign are part of a package of initiatives being launched by the Government, supported by NAS, to promote Apprenticeships - particularly to employers. The key challenge in expanding Apprenticeships to meet Government targets (such as having 1 in 5 young people on an Apprenticeship by 2020), is finding enough Apprenticeship opportunities offered by employers to meet the demand for places from potential Apprentices. NAS’s ‘Good for Business’ campaign will therefore look to raise awareness amongst businesses of the long and short term benefits of taking on an Apprentice.
This is particularly important in the context of the proposals for increasing the participation age, which would result in the need for more Apprenticeship places for 16 and 17 year olds. CFE’s recent report with the CfBT Education Trust looks at lessons from history of increasing the number of 16 and 17 year olds in education and training, and highlights the importance of engaging employers, potentially through wage subsidies to support Apprenticeship places.
CFE’s Joint Managing Director, Sarah Hakeney, said:
‘CFE strongly believes that greater employer involvement in the Apprenticeship programme is vital to the achievement of the Government’s targets. Our work for the LSC on the evaluation of the Apprenticeship vacancies system identified that the biggest challenge is ramping up demand from employers for apprentices. This proves even more difficult given the current economic climate where businesses find themselves struggling to maintain existing staffing levels and are not in a position to take on Apprentices.
We need to support employers to recognise the business benefits of participation in the Apprenticeship programme. In tough financial times, investing in the skills of your staff is vital to ensure you can continue to compete and survive the recession. Apprenticeships are not only a recruitment tool, but can also be offered to existing staff as a proven way to increase the skills and competitiveness of an organisation.
If models such as GTAs and ATAs succeed in enabling greater employer involvement in the design, content and delivery of apprenticeships we should start to see a rise in the number of employers wishing to take part and realise the added value that an apprentice can bring to their company.’
For more information, please see the BIS press release here.