This Week's News 24.08.18

Outcry as funding is slashed by more than 20 per cent

Outcry as funding is slashed by more than 20 per centIn May 2018 the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) announced that it would be reviewing the funding bands for 31 standards, including the hair professional apprenticeship standards, at the request of the Department for Education. In July 2018 the hair professional trailblazer steering group provided a comprehensive rationale, backed up by quotes from providers, recommending an increase to the funding band because of the additional costs required to deliver a qualification which is higher than the old level 2 framework apprenticeships plus a demanding end-point assessment. The rationale has been rejected by the IfA who have now formally confirmed the outcome of the funding review - a reduction of more than 20 per cent from £9,000 to £7,000. The changes still have to be confirmed by the Secretary of State, but as there is no further right of appeal this is expected to be a formality. Once approval is confirmed there will be 2 months' notice before the funding decreases take effect for new starters. Wendy Cummins, Chair of the Hair Professional Steering Group and owner of Quiffys in Eastleigh said, "I am totally shocked by the decision to cut the funding bands. The Government's aim was to have a flagship apprenticeship programme which cannot be achieved if there is insufficient funding. The hair professional standards took two years for employers to develop, with constant policy changes which were both frustrating and time-consuming. Just as the industry is adopting the new style standards, this blow falls." Trevor Luker, AELP Sector Lead, Training Provider and Steering group member said "The hair professional standard was only approved for delivery in May 2017. We are only 13 months in to the new standard and the end point assessment (EPA) outcomes for learners are as yet untested. The hair professional standard was approved for 3 years and should be left as it is in terms of the structure / delivery costs until there is more empirical evidence to support a review, based on known costs and outcomes including First Time Pass Rates (FTP) for the EPA." Andrew Collinge of Andrew Collinge salon and Training Academy said "Employers and training providers are only just getting to work with and adapt to the new standards and recent changes to apprenticeship funding, and now the funding regime will be changing yet again. This will have a negative effect on hairdressing training and the industry for the future." Hellen Ward, Richard Ward Salon and Metro Spa and Employer Champion for the hair professional trailblazer group said: "the hair professional standards are one of the most popular new style Trailblazer apprenticeships in terms of apprenticeship starts. We are dismayed that the encouraging take-up will be reversed due to funding changes beyond our control." For more information on the Trailblazer Apprenticeships to date, visit the Institute for Apprentices website https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org.

Government no longer backing its own 3 million apprenticeship manifesto commitment

The Department for Education has, for the first time, refused to commit to its 3 million apprenticeship starts target, after a spokesperson for the prime minister dodged the question. The target has been included in the past two Conservative party election manifestos, but with starts falling it's slipping ever further out of reach. At a Downing Street lobby briefing on 20 August, a spokesperson for the prime minister reportedly refused to back the target, after being asked three times and the DfE subsequently said it had nothing further to add. In its 2015 election manifesto, the Conservatives - under former leader David Cameron - promised to "support three million new apprenticeships, so young people acquire the skills to succeed". This was reaffirmed in 2017 under Ms May's leadership, who pledged to "deliver our commitment to create 3 million apprenticeships for young people by 2020 and in doing so we will drive up the quality of apprenticeships to ensure they deliver the skills employers need." Writing in The Times newspaper earlier this year, skills minister Anne Milton also appeared to back away from the target. The government's reforms had "made sure that apprenticeships are high quality", and "we won't sacrifice that quality just to meet the target that was set," she wrote in an opinion piece in May. Just two months earlier, in a hearing for an inquiry by the House of Lords economic affairs committee, Ms Milton said her aim was "to meet the 3 million target" but admitted that she had "absolutely no idea" how that target was arrived at.

Employers prefer apprenticeship experience over university degrees

After thousands of students received their A-level results, employers have revealed that the experience gained in an apprenticeship is more important than qualifications when hiring young members of staff. Research conducted among 1,000 organisations employing more than five staff, shows that employers prefer candidates to have experience from an apprenticeship more than having a university degree. Half (49 per cent) of employers said they would prefer to see experience from a relevant apprenticeship or previous position on a candidate's CV, compared to only 24 per cent who would prefer a relevant degree. Asked why they prioritise candidates with relevant experience from an apprenticeship or previous position, 71 per cent said it was because candidates had demonstrated their skills in a practical setting, and 62 per cent said it showed they had a better understanding of the world of work.

What the employers said: The top 10 priorities when hiring young workers

  1. How they fit into the company culture
  2. How much experience they have
  3. Their general personality
  4. How well qualified they are
  5. A proactive attitude
  6. Ability to work in a team
  7. Willingness to learn
  8. Ability to self-manage and take initiative
  9. Ambition
  10. Communication skills

Is a degree apprenticeship a viable alternative to university?

With degree apprenticeships typically paying salaries of £15,000 - £20,000, compared to annual tuition fees of £9,000, the finances make sense. Plus, you get to work in your chosen field for three to five years, become proficient on the job, receive time off for training and study and still come out with a degree.

So what opportunities are there for A-level students looking for degree apprenticeships today? There are virtually no degree apprenticeships available. On A-level results day, there were only 117 places being advertised for degree apprenticeships across the whole of England, compared to over 30,000 university courses with places available (after 411,860 places were accepted). In fact, degree apprenticeships at level 6 (equivalent to a standard university undergraduate degree) make up only 0.3 per cent of all apprenticeship adverts on the government's Find an Apprenticeship service. Level 4-7 apprenticeships make up just 1.8 per cent of the total (359 adverts), with level 2 and 3 occupying a whopping 98.2 per cent (19,677 adverts). Although he government is pushing the National Careers Service as the place to look for careers advice, but they don't offer any additional advice on where to find degree apprenticeships. Degree apprenticeships are new, so the available places are currently low. The number of people starting apprenticeships at all levels has been dropping since the government reformed the system, despite their intention for an increase in apprenticeship places. The good news is that more degree apprenticeship standards are being developed, and as more employers and universities develop their courses, the number of opportunities is likely to grow rapidly over the next few years.

Exam stress

The NSPCC has released figures which show that, in 2017/18, there were 1,298 Childline counselling sessions with children and teenagers related to exam stress, an increase of 15 per cent on the previous year. Figures show that concern was highest in August 2017, with just under a quarter of all counselling sessions related to exam stress happening in the month when GCSE and A-Level results are published.

Labour market latest

The most recent survey of the labour market paints a picture of continued high employment but stagnant pay expectations and a shrinking labour supply. Combined with persistent low productivity and uncertainties around Brexit, evidence suggests wage growth will continue to be sluggish with continued recruitment difficulties over the next year. Other factors pushing down wage growth include non-wage costs such as the Apprenticeship Levy which 22 per cent of employers said is a factor behind their ability to award basic pay increases of 2 per cent or more.

Employment statistics: job vacancies in the UK

Employment statistics: job vacancies in the UK

The number of job vacancies has increased significantly in the last year. There were 829,000 job vacancies for May to July 2018. Vacancies are defined as positions for which employers are actively seeking to recruit outside their business or organisation. This was:

  • 20,000 more than for February to April 2018
  • 51,000 more than for a year earlier
  • the highest since comparable records began in 2001

Employment statistics: changes in the number of young people (aged 16 to 24 years) in the UK labour market

Employment statistics: changes in the number of young people in the UK labour market

For April to June 2018, the unemployment rate for those aged from 16 to 24 years was 11.3 per cent, the lowest youth unemployment rate since comparable records for unemployment by age group began in March to May 1992. Between March to May 1992 and April to June 2018, the proportion of people aged from 16 to 24 years who were in full-time education increased substantially from 26.2 per cent to 43.8 per cent.

(LFS household population = Labour Force Survey)

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