Steve Gray responds to low-quality Apprenticeship claims

October 30, 2015

As the largest Group Training Association in England, we were pleased when Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector from Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, commissioned a survey into the delivery of Apprenticeships.

The report covered many aspects, including the promotion, delivery and impact of Apprenticeships but mainly identified the “guilty parties” on whom Sir Michael placed the blame for the reduction of quality in Apprenticeships nationally.

Published last week, the report, named ‘Apprenticeships: Developing Skills for Future Prosperity’ was unfortunately met with a resoundingly negative media response, making headlines which focussed almost exclusively on apprentices that “do not receive sufficiently high-quality training”.

The coverage of the report concentrated on mainly poor provision rather than the many good training companies offering quality Apprenticeships. What is being missed is the fact that the report actually highlights that there are providers delivering exceptional practice. There is a model out there that works, with Group Training Associations lauded in the report as an example of outstanding practice.

The report states;

“Group Training Associations (GTAs) provide a very successful model for collaboration between employers and providers. They were set up 40 years ago as training providers funded partly by subscription and controlled by a board made up of the local employers they serve. This has become a model of industry/provider partnership that has responded very effectively to the training demands of industry.”

The reason that GTAs work so well is that they are governed by employers, cultivating a relationship and coordinating Apprenticeships which are highly responsive to the needs of local business. Of the 23 GTAs inspected by Ofsted between January 2010 and April 2015, 91% have been judged good or outstanding for overall effectiveness in comparison to 79% of all other independent learning providers inspected over that period, so we know it works.

The report further demonstrates what we already knew; that most high-quality Apprenticeships are found in industries that have long-established traditions of using them such as automotive, construction and engineering. But what of new industries and employers less experienced in taking on apprentices? The first priority is to not be put off by this report; Apprenticeships are enormously valuable when the provision meets local needs and the quality of delivery is good to outstanding.

Ensuring this is about having strong relationships between the parties involved in the Apprenticeship. Primarily the employer, apprentice, their parents and the training provider. Group Training Associations do this very effectively and the results are proof of this.

The commitment to delivering 3 million Apprenticeships over the next 5 years is commendable and shouldn’t be overshadowed by sensational headlines. The good practice identified in the survey now needs to form the basis of quality, high level Apprenticeships being offered by all in the future.

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