Latest NAO apprenticeship report set to be unveiled

The National Audit Office (NAO) is set to publish its latest findings on apprenticeships next month to coincide with the new school year and the reopening of Parliament.

The body says its most up to date research will explore the management of the apprenticeship programme by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) as the government seeks to create three million new apprenticeships by 2020 and ramp up UK productivity.

The timing is pertinent as it chimes with end of the government’s latest – and fourth – iteration of its consultation into the reforms. The influential Public Accounts Committee is also set to examine apprenticeships in the autumn.

The NAO will also explore how well BIS has rolled out the wider programme of delivering improved skills training.

Four years ago, Amyas Morse, then head of NAO, published a report about adult apprenticeships. It found that “the apprenticeships programme has been providing a good return for public spending”.

“Nevertheless, the department should set its sights higher in order to get better value from the £0.5bn and rising now spent on adult apprenticeships each year.

“It needs to target resources more effectively; confirm the training provided is in addition to what would have been provided without public support; and make sure that the funding system is informed by robust information on the cost of delivery.”

The report also found that the government’s Apprenticeship Programme had expanded by 140% between the 2006/07 and 2010/11 academic years, with apprentices aged over 25 accounting for 68% of the uplift. However, most of the programme’s increase had been in just ten apprenticeship occupations.

Some 91% of apprentices expressed satisfaction with their training, but the rapid expansion of the programme brought with it several risks that need to be managed. A key concern was that in 2010/11, 19% (34,600) of apprenticeships lasted less than six months, when most are expected to last at least a year.

The parliamentary sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy is also carrying out its own probe into apprenticeships.