The apprenticeship reforms: Two years on.

 6 March 2019

As part of National Apprenticeships Week, Programme Director Sara Whybrew considers the impact of apprenticeships reforms in England on the cultural sector. Are they really as bad as they are sometimes made out to be?

Reforms are an opportunity to create truly industry-led training
Reforms are an opportunity to create truly industry-led training

Our 2019 National Conference fast approaches, where we’ll be discussing and reflecting on the barriers preventing inclusive entry into our workforce. I feel that now is a good time to take stock of where we’ve got to as a sector in the midst of apprenticeship reform.

As we all know, the Government reformed the apprenticeship system in England two years ago, introducing an apprenticeship levy, kickstarting the withdrawal of apprenticeship frameworks and phasing in new apprenticeship standards. There has been much criticism of these changes, especially around the levy and the process for developing new standards.

But has it really been as bad as some have made out? At Creative & Cultural Skills we’re not sure it has been.

The Bigger Picture

We’ve spent years working with employers, government departments and policy influencers to encourage a more diverse cultural workforce, and a vocational education system that is industry-led and accessible to all. In truth, it is these ambitions that sit at the very heart of the apprenticeship reforms and the wider post-16 skills plan. So, is there a risk that we’ve lost sight of the bigger picture here?

This is the first time employers have been so central to developing this sort of work

We agree that developing apprenticeship standards can be challenging and that the back and forth with the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) can, at times, feel convoluted. But creating brand new training options shouldn’t be easy, especially if quality, relevancy and educational stretch are to be achieved. The IfA should be challenging us.

What’s more, this is the first time employers have been so central to developing this sort of work, helping to ensure that the occupations we need to train people for have new and accessible training routes into them. The sheer number of employers that have been part of developing new apprenticeship standards also tells me that more and more are recognising the value of apprenticeships.

The Apprenticeship Levy

Cynics might say this is because employers just want to create options to help them spend their levy vouchers - but so what? If they can’t spend their vouchers on what’s already there then it’s only right employers determine and drive additional options.

Does it really matter that the levy could be the driver for this, if the outcome is one that can benefit more people?

National Apprenticeships Week

National Apprenticeships Week is such a brilliant way to shine a light on the benefits of apprenticeships for both employers and apprentices. I was heartened to read a story recently about a father and son who were both undertaking the same apprenticeship for the same company. The son was just starting out in the world of work whilst his dad was looking to change career.

National Apprenticeships Week is such a brilliant way to shine a light on the benefits of apprenticeships for both employers and apprentices.

Not only does this show that apprenticeships really are for anyone, it shows that employers are gradually becoming more open about them. They are thinking in new ways about how they can be used to support and develop new talent, regardless of age or prior experience.

We know the cultural industries are still behind the curve here, but we believe the reforms are gradually changing this. Never have we had the range of organisations, including some of our most well-known, directly involved in developing apprenticeship training options and employing apprentices for the first time.

We know we’re going in the right direction, we just need to maintain the momentum, something we hope our conference in Cardiff on the 1st April will be a catalyst for. We hope to see you there!


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