Government changes to apprenticeships puts employers back in the driving seat

UK apprenticeships will undergo a series of changes and feature tougher industry standards, according to a Government announcement made today by Prime Minister David Cameron.

The changes come as part of a move to put “employers directly in the driving seat of apprenticeship programmes”, said Cameron. Future apprentices will need to demonstrate competence through more rigorous academic assessments, including increased English and maths requirements.

The “Trailblazer” Apprenticeships will be at least a year long and will be graded on a three-point scale – pass, merit and distinction – to put them more on par with other qualifications, it is revealed.

Further reforms will also be introduced to ensure at least 20 per cent of an apprentice’s time is spent in specific “off-the-job” training away from their usual workstation.

100,000 additional training places will be offered over the next two years, as a sharp hike in university tuition fees saw a surge in the number of school leavers considering apprenticeship schemes.

City and Guilds welcome the changes. Chris Jones, chief executive of City and Guilds, said: “It’s great to see Government putting apprenticeships into the hands of employers.” However, he stressed the importance of educators being involved in the Trailblazer pilots.

He added: “We urge Government to consider this as a requirement for the pilots, instead of as an optional extra, as this will create truly rigorous and responsive apprenticeships.”

The National Hairdressers’ Federation (NHF) was quick to respond to the reform. Hilary Hall, chief executive of the National Hairdressers’ Federation, said: “We welcome the report’s recognition that the new-format apprenticeship standards must work for small businesses, as well as large employers.”

She added: “The NHF has therefore today applied for ‘Trailblazer’ status, a move we hope will allow us to work closely with the Government as well as build on our existing work in this area.”