The story so far: progress towards the new apprenticeships landscape

Since the unveiling of the Richard review in 2012, and the government's response a year later, the apprenticeships landscape has seen some seismic activity. But which of the tectonic plates have stopped shifting?

Most projects have a period where an unschooled outsider, looking in for the first time, would be horrified at the disorganisation of the environment. However those inside the bubble, accustomed to shocks, transitional arrangements and hybrid models, continue about their business in a state of eerie calm.

If you’re involved in apprenticeships at the moment, you probably fall into one of these categories.

Since 2013, the landscape around apprenticeships has been transforming from one model of provision to another, but at different speeds and with different levels of clarity around the end result.

To help illustrate where we are now, it’s useful to look back on the objectives that have been set, and also to break them down in three key groups:

  • Learning model
  • Institutions
  • Funding

Learning model - still moving

Essentially, the Richard Review proposed swapping the “blend of qualifications model” to one based on a pre-defined end-point, with the programme of learning being engineered around that, enabling individual occupations to take a qualification-heavy or -lite approach, depending on the needs of the employers who would use them.

Development of new standards: Partially complete

This is the area showing best progress but paradoxically, it’s also the area with most still to do, due to the sheer number of occupations requiring new standards.

Retirement of old SASE / SASW frameworks: Partially complete

Some undersubscribed SASE frameworks have been retired already, but it’s likely that all those which remain live will have at least 12 months left to run. From the start of the process, Government has always made it clear that except in the case of low learners, there won’t be any “switch-offs” until the replacement standard is available.

Transition to new pedagogy - not started

Like a lot of reforms, the principles are worked out well in advance, but the front-line implications are less clear. However, what is certain is that support for transition for tutors, assessors and other front-line staff won’t come from government. This is where the sector - awarding and end point assessment organisations, colleges and training providers - will need to step forward.

The institutions - still moving

The two main institutions proposed were the Digital Apprenticeships Service (DAS) and the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA).

In the meantime, there would be the FISSS, which would oversee the introduction of the the first of the new standards, and manage things in the interim.

We’ve seen little of the Digital Apprenticeships Service to date, but the clue to why is in the name: it’s a website, and it’s still eight months from launch. Few large websites are available for preview with full functionality this far out.

As for the IfA, the recent Sainsbury Review and the publication of the government’s skills plan have made this the hottest of topics. We can’t yet be sure of the final extent, but the words “expanded role” are writ large across recent announcements.

We’ll have a full update on this in our first Insight webinar for apprenticeships, on Tuesday 23 August.

Funding - not started

As recently as July, the government re-affirmed its commitment to introducing the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017, however, due to the possible impact of the EU referendum decision on the government’s finances, the detail of how much funding each band would attract was parked. We won’t see that until the autumn, once the Treasury and others have re-run their numbers.

Only once those bands are announced, and we hear industry’s response to them, will we know if the April 2017 implementation date is still realistic.