National Apprenticeship Week – a look back | Part 2

Posted on: 23 March, 2016


AAC Day 2

Day 2 commenced with a keynote speech from Ofsted Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw. Wilshaw stated that now is a time of great opportunity for anyone involved in delivering apprenticeships; highlighting that there are currently 210,000 unfilled vacancies in UK – an increase of 43 per cent from 2013. Over 30 per cent of the vacancies exist because there aren’t enough people with the right skills to fill them.

Key sectors that are affected include the manufacturing, construction and utilities sectors.

Making reference to the Ofsted ‘Apprenticeships: developing skills for future prosperity’ report issued in 2015, Wilshaw reiterated that he considers that there are some fundamental challenges for the FE sector, these being:

  1. To make sure all apprenticeships are of the highest quality
  2. Apprenticeships have got to address both local and national priorities
  3. To train many more young people than we do at the moment
  4. To have structured networks of local employers and training providers working together on the curriculum, assessment and accreditation of apprenticeship programmes

Wilshaw added that if these challenges are not addressed then we wont get the apprentices we need to deliver the ambitious programme that the Government has set.

Sharika Martin, Vice President (FE), National Union of Students followed Sir Michael Wilshaw. Sharika’s key message was the need for apprentices to have common voice. Sharika explained the role of the National Society of Apprentices that was set up in 2014.

In a separate session run by Sue Husband, Director, Apprenticeships and Delivery Service at the SFA, key stats on apprenticeships were presented:

  • 23,000 apprenticeship places were pledged by employers as part of National Apprenticeship Week 2015. This figure has been smashed in 2016 with over 30,000 pledges having been made
  • Research shows that completing a Level 2 apprenticeship increases earning potential by 11 per cent and completing a Level 3 apprenticeship increases earning potential by 16 per cent
  • Higher apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships are the fastest growing part of the apprenticeship programme
  • Currently only 1.7 per cent of the public sector workforce is apprentices, compared to 2.3 per cent for the private sector. The SFA is pursuing a target of 5 per cent of its own workforce being apprentices

In the last session of the day, Nadhim Zahawi MP, Adviser on Apprenticeships to the PM and joint chair of Apprenticeship Delivery Board (ADP) added that the ADB is focusing on sectors where apprentices can be better used – this includes the construction sector. The ADB is also focuses on diversity in apprenticeships in line with the Prime Minister’s target to increase the number of BME apprentices by 20 per cent by 2020.

Zahawi closed with words to the effect: “3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020 means 3 millions chances to create 3 million great careers, 3 millions chances to enhance business performance, and 3 million chances to enhance the economy.”

AAC Day 3

Sir Vince Cable opened Day 3 with a keynote speech providing an insight into his time in government and his leadership of BIS. Key points made by Sir Vince were:

  • Skills are essential for productivity and social mobility
  • Making reference to the Industrial Strategy that was introduced when he was in office, he reiterated that it is essential that government and businesses work together
  • The UK needs a blend of skills – academic skills on their own are unsuited to wider labour market, and vocational skills on their own lack the transferability that the industry needs. A blend of academic and vocation skills, as is developed though an apprenticeship, is more suited to meeting skills and job market requirements

When asked about the Apprenticeship Levy Sir Vince indicated that the concept of the levy, which was announced when he was in office, remains good but the current lack of detail on how it will operate was a worry. Sir Vince raised concern that the levy could be developing into a revenue raising measure for the Treasury rather than a mechanism for increasing apprenticeship numbers.

Representatives from Barclays, Ginsters and Nationwide followed Sir Vince and gave an insight into how as employers they have embraced apprenticeships and what it is doing for their organisations. Ann Brown, HR Director at Nationwide highlighted the benefits of the thorough workplace induction that is delivered by Nationwide to its new apprentices. The 3 day programme focuses on a range of work readiness requirements including appearance punctuality requirements.

Mike Thompson, Head of Apprenticeships at Barclays stated that traineeships have helped Barclays to get the right people on apprenticeships. Barclays now retains approximately 95 per cent of it apprentices compared to 75 per cent traineeships.

Mary Curnock Cook, CEO at UCAS, provided an update on recent trends in HE participation and gave an insight into the opportunities being created by the increasing range of higher and degree apprenticeships. Curnock Cook outlined that UCAS is now advertising apprenticeships on its website.

Day 3 concluded with a speech from Mark Dawe, new CEO of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers. Dawe explained that he felt that the current reforms provide a great opportunity for the sector – despite the current lack of detail regarding the levy and the unwanted focus on negatives rather than positives by Ofsted.


Overall I found the conference helpful and the time invested in attending all three days was worthwhile. Had I only attended one of the days, I consider that I would not have developed the same level of insight into the current state of play. The overarching topic and key area of interest across all three days was the levy. The lack of available detail on how the levy will operate was undoubtedly the subject of most of the discussion between sessions. UCEM is keeping a close eye on levy developments and is providing regular updates via its website as more details become known.

In keeping with Mark Dawes’ closing comments, UCEM considers that the current apprenticeship reforms present a great opportunity and UCEM is already leading the way on the delivery of new Surveying Technician and Chartered Surveyor apprenticeships. For more information on UCEM’s involvement with apprenticeship click here.