What the 2024 General Election Could Mean for Apprenticeships?

How will the general election affect apprenticeships
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    Hey readers! Welcome back to the ACE360 blog. As we gear up for the upcoming general election on July 4th, 2024, one of the key talking points on the agenda is the future of apprenticeships in the UK.

    Here at ACE360, we’re taking a peek at what the two main contenders, the Labour and Conservative parties, have in store for apprenticeships.

    Our aim in today’s blog is to offer insights without diving into the political fray, focusing instead on how each party’s proposals might shape the apprenticeship landscape!

    Labour’s Apprenticeship Reforms

    Under the leadership of Sir Keir Starmer, Labour has put forward some pretty significant changes to the current apprenticeship system. At the heart of their policy is the introduction of a “growth and skills” levy. Here’s what’s on the table:

    Growth and Skills Levy

    This fresh levy would take the place of the existing apprenticeship levy, giving employers the freedom to allocate up to half of their funds towards non-apprenticeship training. “The goal?” we hear you ask… Well, Labour think this might be a good way to bridge the skills gap by opening up a wider range of training opportunities.

    Support for Non-Apprenticeship Training

    They’re also proposing a new task force called Skills England, which would oversee the eligibility of non-apprenticeship courses for funding. Plus, there’s a plan for a competitive bidding process to designate colleges as “technical excellence colleges.”

    Addressing Declining Youth Apprenticeships

    Labour’s shining a light on the steep drop in apprenticeship starts among under-19s—a 41% decrease since the current levy came into play. They’re tossing around ideas to turn this trend around, but the specifics on improving completion rates and backing small business apprenticeships are still a bit fuzzy.

    Criticism of Current System

    They’re not holding back on voicing concerns about the high dropout rates from apprenticeships. Plus, they’re wary of the shift towards offering apprenticeships to older, more seasoned workers in higher-level roles, which they argue could stifle opportunities for younger folks.

    Conservative’s Focus on Continuity and New Qualifications

    On the other side of the aisle, the Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, is highlighting their track record while tossing in some fresh ideas. Here’s what they’re bringing to the table:

    Record on Apprenticeships

    Education Secretary Gillian Keegan’s been singing the praises of over 5.8 million apprenticeship starts, covering almost 70% of occupations. It’s a testament to their commitment to keeping the apprenticeship engine running smoothly.

    Advanced British Standard

    They’re pitching a new qualification— the Advanced British Standard— as a replacement for A-levels and T Levels. This revamped qualification aims to streamline and boost the current system, along with extending mandatory maths education until age 18.

    Future Plans and Spending

    While the nitty-gritty of new policies is still a bit hazy, it looks like the Conservatives are doubling down on their achievements and making tweaks within the existing framework. It looks like they’re eyeing up the needs of small businesses and technical education for potential improvements, but with anything, the proof’s in the pudding!

    Implications for Apprenticeships

    So, what do these proposals likely mean for the future of apprenticeships in the UK?

    Labour’s Approach

    By the looks of things, it’s all about flexibility and widening the scope of skill development. While this could pave the way for fresh pathways to skill acquisition, it might also shake up the traditional apprenticeship numbers.

    Conservative’s Strategy

    So far, they’re all about building on what’s already working and introducing new qualifications to bring the education system up to speed. This could offer stability and continuity, appealing to supporters of the current apprenticeship setup.

    Conclusion

    As we approach the election, the direction of apprenticeship policy will be top of mind for voters and stakeholders in the Further Education sector. With Labour’s proposed reforms and the Conservative’s focus on continuity and new qualifications on the table, there are distinct paths ahead.

    Rest assured, The Skills Federation (formerly FISSS) will be keeping a close eye on these developments, offering updates and analysis to help navigate the potential changes in the apprenticeship landscape. Keep an eye out for future commentary, and click here for our Chair Dame Julie Mellor’s latest piece in FE News, discussing the benefits of a collaborative approach to meeting the UK skills challenge.

    This post was written by Barry Hynd

    Picture of Barry Hynd
    Barry is the Managing Director at Federation for Industry Sector Skills and Standards (FISSS).

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