Quality of apprenticeships in decline
The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) has published a report which reveals that smaller providers of apprenticeships have been losing funds to support apprentices.
A report by Ofsted, named ‘Ensuring quality in apprenticeships’, assessed the quality of subcontractors providing services for colleges and training providers.
Due to a policy of minimum contract values published in 2011 by the Skills Funding Agency, smaller providers were restricted to either choose to form a consortium or set up as a subcontractor for larger providers, says the report.
The criteria to act as a lead contractor are based on the size of contract rather than a delivery of high quality apprenticeships.
Because their lead contractors took too high a fee for very little work, many small, good providers have been penalised by the loss of funding they can use to support apprentices. This fee varied considerably and inspectors found no clear link between the quality of support and challenge and the fees charged to subcontractors.
National Director of Learning and Skills, Matthew Coffey, said the restrictions imposed by the introduction of the minimum contract value have led to ‘a greater distance between the learner and those responsible for learning’.
Some of the apprenticeship programmes were too short in duration to sufficiently embed the skills being developed, states the report.
There were also some examples of apprentices, particularly younger ones, being used as inexpensive labour during their training and then being discarded as employees to be replaced by new apprentices.
The government and other agencies should consider introducing an independent whistleblowing hotline, suggests Ofsted. This way concerns and potential problems can be picked up quickly.