More clarity needed on apprenticeships plan, government told

MPs have urged the government to consult with industry and provide more detail on the apprenticeship levy and target numbers.

In its report published today (1 February), the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee called into question the government’s productivity plan, which included what it called the “ambitious” target of three million apprenticeships by 2020.


Lack of consultation

The report raised concerns about how this target would be met, citing that businesses and industry were not consulted on the policy. In particular, too little thought was given to what level and types of apprenticeships would be needed to fill the skills gap.

The target of three million apprentices, the report added, was “something of a blunt and arbitrary tool”, and may run contrary to what businesses actually need.

On the apprenticeships levy, the committee called for clarity on how it would work for employers whose business would not benefit by taking on apprentices. The levy should be implemented in such a way to allow different sectors to decide what type of training and qualifications would best suit their specific needs.


The report’s recommendations include:

  • That the government sets out its rationale for its target of three million apprentice starts and publishes the evidence base.
  • That the government works with businesses and sectors to assess how the three million apprenticeships will be broken down by level, and publishes the outcomes.
  • That the detail of the apprenticeship levy should allow individual employer to determine its requirements.
  • That the government consults with industry to ensure that the levy is implemented to allow sectors to invest in skills through the training methods that best apply to their needs.


No measurable objectives

The BIS committee report examined the government’s Productivity Plan – aimed at improving UK productivity growth – and concluded that the document lacked “sufficient focus and clear, measurable objectives to be called a ‘plan’”.

The Productivity Plan was launched last year to address stagnant productivity, which stalled at 14 per cent below the level that would have been achieved if trends seen before the recession had continued.

However, the BIS committee’s report said the plan was “too vague and long”, and urged the government to provide more clarity in order to avoid it being “destined to collect dust on bookshelves across Whitehall”.

Suggestions include that the government produce a clear, supplementary document outlining how each policy will be implemented and its success measured.

This should be regularly updated with progress against key milestones and dates, and parliament should be able to hold ministers to account, the report said.