The Ofsted report laid out some recommendations for the future of apprenticeships. The government should build on the reforms that are already underway and enable SMEs to be involved fully in planning and delivering apprenticeships, while ensuring that they get effective support and are not burdened by additional bureaucracy. In addition, it must make available to providers information about local and national skills priorities and hold them to account for the extent to which their provision meets these and hold providers to account for the value their apprenticeships add to their apprentices’ careers, as evidenced by progression to higher-level training, increased responsibility at work and improvements in earnings.
Of course, some providers have reacted negatively to the report and defended the services they offer. Chief executive of apprenticeship training provider JTL Jon Graham claims that, while he welcomes the report and accepts that their comments “have resonance in the wider apprenticeship field,” he is disappointed in the media’s reaction to the report which, he says, ignored the positive outcomes that many specialist providers deliver to the UK economy. JTL supports around 6,000 apprentices in the building services engineering sector across England and Wales.
According to Graham: “We’d have liked to have seen more media coverage of the benefits of apprenticeships to the economy too – for instance a recent report estimated a Higher Apprenticeship can increase an individual’s lifetime earning potential by up to £150,000, comparable to the return for a university graduate.
“I also think it’s important to recognise that there are many high quality training providers not reflected in these headlines…If you delve more deeply into the Ofsted report it does acknowledge that there are training providers doing a good job, so it is very disappointing that the headlines we’ve seen today following publication have treated all apprenticeships in the same way.”
In a similar vein Marc Rhodes, account manager at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), comments: “All our apprentices receive upfront practical training from industry specialists to give them a solid platform in preparing them for a productive environment. The partnership with the University of Sheffield means apprentices have a genuine alternative to traditional higher education routes, with the opportunity to study all the way up to doctorate level.”