What does the ‘hung parliament’ mean for apprenticeships in the creative sector?

 16 June 2017

We now know the result of the June 2017 General Election. We have a ‘hung parliament’ and much more of a two-party system than we’ve seen for a number of years. Negotiations between the Conservative and Democratic Unionist Parties are already impacting on the timetable for getting the country back to work. Suddenly things feel much more uncertain than even a few weeks ago.

"The prospect of a country where there is ‘parity of esteem’ between technical and academic education is worth striving for."

Brexit will dominate the business of the Government over the next few years. It must as the timetable for negotiations with the 27 other EU countries is set.

Inevitably time spent on Brexit negotiations will squeeze parliamentary and civil service time to the detriment of domestic issues.

I worry for a skills sector that finds itself midway through major reform with a huge number of unanswered questions and work still to do.

And crucial to a successful Brexit, however ‘soft’, is that there needs to be a plan to develop our own talent pipeline.

The Institute for Apprenticeships crept into being just before the Election was announced. The Government’s 3 million new apprenticeship-starts target remains but it will probably be extended to the end of the current administration in 2022.

But what of quality measures, assessment and funding? We are part-way through the process of reform with as yet many unanswered questions.

Apprenticeships for employers

Over the next few months Creative & Cultural Skills will be running a number of free regional workshops in England for those employers in the creative industries.

Work with us to make opportunities for young people in the sector

Both for those that are paying the new Apprenticeship Levy that was introduced in April 2017, and those that aren’t. These sessions have been funded by Arts Council England.

If you are an employer - with an annual pay bill of £3 million of more – you will know by now whether you are in scope for payments because the first collections from HMRC happened in May.

You’ll already have an online voucher account and will probably be wondering how to maximize the benefits of these payments.

Or you may be thinking you’ll just take the payments as a tax – a pity if so because apprenticeships can bring real business benefits and we estimate that collectively the levy payers in the Arts Council portfolio alone will lose £3,000,000.

How will the Levy vouchers work?

It won’t be easy for arts organisations and creative businesses to use their Levy vouchers effectively straightaway.

The contributions will be collected monthly and returned to employers as vouchers to spend on apprenticeship training.

But they are only valid for two years from the time they enter your account, so it’s inevitable that many employers will lose money in the first couple of years as they won’t have time to set up their apprenticeships.

I urge the bigger employers in our sector to look at what has been achieved over the last 9 years through apprenticeships in the creative industries and work with us to make opportunities for young people in the sector.

What does our research tell us?

We have seen through the success of our Creative Employment Programme that employers are positive about their experiences of taking on apprentices.

We can see across the sector that recruiting younger non-graduates can change the diversity profile of the sector in a very positive way and improve productivity in a way that taking on unpaid interns never could.

In May we held a meeting of some of the most enthusiastic of apprenticeship employers in the music and theatre sectors.

And crucial to a successful Brexit, however ‘soft’, is that there needs to be a plan to develop our own talent pipeline.

They were unanimously in agreement for expanding their apprenticeship programmes but also very vocal about the challenges in the skills system as a whole.

We have still to see the development of all the Apprenticeship Standards we need: the Standards are the Government-approved occupations and assessment plans needed for each apprenticeship.

We have yet to be satisfied that the funding available for each Standard is adequate and viable: it’s not surprising that most Training Providers deliver apprenticeships where there are the biggest numbers of recruits.

And we know that the issues for a sector like ours, that is still relatively new to apprenticeships, are more challenging than those for sectors with long histories of taking on young people through work based learning routes.

The future of apprenticeships

Apprenticeships in the creative industries will mirror the sector itself: lots of different job roles in often highly technical areas of work.

And we still need more clarity from the Institute for Apprenticeships about how apprentices are assessed and how assessments are ‘quality assured’. 

There is a risk that young people will be starting apprenticeships without knowing how they will complete.

The prospect of a country where there is ‘parity of esteem’ between technical and academic education is worth striving for.

Where young people do not see apprenticeships only as entry-level opportunities but where higher and degree apprenticeships are also part of the mix

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