Over 70% of apprenticeships are delivered by private training providers. These providers not covered by the education act (1994), no requirement for learner representation, do not fall under the scope of college insolvency protection and are not required to have learner or staff representation on their boards.
Alongside chronic and endemic underpayment of apprentices the most pressing issue facing apprentices across the Wales is the quality of their education. The Welsh Government have attempted to address this but we have seen no significant shift in the number of apprentices receiving the training that they are entitled to; that education that providers are paid for and that entitles employers to pay apprentices a reduced rate.
Apprenticeships in Wales have developed two competing models of training. Those professions that maintained historic apprenticeship provision, construction, engineering and hair dressing continue to deliver their training predominantly through day or block release. Employers understanding that to develop new skills and understanding the apprentice needs to take time away from the workplace.
Employers and industries that have adopted apprenticeships more recently, Early Years, Retail and Business administration, have developed a different model. The Assessor visitor model ensures that an apprentice is in the workplace full time and must arrange their off the job learning around their duties at work. Rather than learning with other apprentices their training is delivered through online blended learning. An assessor will then visit the apprentice in their workplace once every 4-12 weeks.
It is disgraceful that online learning in schools, colleges and universities is a national priority to be ended as soon as possible, but remains the norm for most apprentices.
The day release model also allows apprentices to engage with other apprentices, compare experiences and access support services available within an FE college. Despite a decade of cuts FE colleges still provide access to childcare, student support, mental health support and sex and relationships education. In the 2019 election we have also saw FE colleges support voter registration drives ensuring young people are not disenfranchised.
At the moment the guidance allows for a very broad definition of what constitutes off the job training. We propose that this guidance be changed as follows:
Learning like this would make it simpler for apprentices to access essential skills in the language medium they choose. Far too frequently apprentices talk about not being able to access essential skills in Welsh.
As we see from the Apprenticeship pay survey the apprenticeships that are least likely to be delivering the legal minimum requirement of off the job training are those apprenticeships that are predominantly done by women. It cannot be right that we have an apprenticeship system that ensures high quality training and education through day release for young men, in engineering and construction, and another in social care and retail where an apprenticeship simply means low paid work with no education or training.
This change would incur no additional funding year on year. These apprenticeships are already receiving funding but apprentices aren’t receiving their education.
We believe that this change would significantly improve the educational experience of apprentices. It would also allow apprentices to meet from other apprentices and enjoy access to services most efficiently provided centrally. It would shift the focus of our apprenticeship programme from “what employers and providers can get away with” to a skills system fit for purpose.