This week The St Martin’s Group was pleased to host a collaborative roundtable discussion on apprenticeship achievement rates, incentivising completions, and alternative measures of success.
The event brought together key stakeholders from across the sector, including delegates from the Department for Education, His Majesty’s Treasury, and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, as well as crucial voices from employers, training providers, and awarding organisations. It was an invaluable opportunity for representatives across the skills sector to share their experiences and collaborate on evidence-based solutions to support policymakers in building a world-class apprenticeship and skills system.
The discussion included potential ways in which employers can be incentivised to focus on apprenticeship completions and what other measures of quality should be reported on for the apprenticeship programme.
Below are some of the key takeaways from the discussion on how the system can better incentivise employers to focus on apprenticeship completions:
- The structure of apprenticeships needs to be more flexible; Standards can be too rigid, which makes it more difficult for SMEs to provide a full experience to apprentices. Larger organisations may be able to incorporate different departmental experiences which support the training needed.
- A modular approach could help employers; being able to select several modules from a bank of approved modules to form an apprenticeship could be one solution.
- Apprenticeships should be designed to build future skills (where perhaps a job does not yet exist). Individuals and employers may be looking at this from a career/progression angle and not just a job perspective.
- More agility is needed in the design and review of standards to help providers tailor the training to changes in roles and to keep up with a fast-changing backdrop.
- Employers have different needs regionally. Apprenticeships should take these variances into account, so that the employers can support the end-to-end journey more easily.
- Functional skills need to be ‘functional’ and passing a functional skills test should not be a barrier to completion. They can create undue pressure for apprentices who may have learning limitations, and yet great ability to learn work skills.
- Assessment plans should be reviewed to maximise observations and discussions and remove those methods which deter completion through anxiety, for example projects.
- There should be more visibility of employers’ success with apprenticeships. It would assist apprentices in selecting a suitable employer and incentivise employers.
- Measuring apprenticeship completions from an ESG perspective could help employers to prioritise outcomes and build deliverables which reflect the larger social and environmental impact.
- There needs to be more sectoral recognition of the value of apprenticeships, so that employers and learners understand where they fit into career progression.
- It is shown that apprentices who have supportive managers, work in groups with other apprentices, and/or are supported with a buddy scheme, tend to have more successful outcomes.
- There could be employer financial incentives for completions.
When it comes to measuring the success of apprenticeship programmes, viewpoints from like across the sector revealed:
- Currently success is measured on a linear scale – with percentage of Apprenticeships being completed; the main regarded statistic. Whilst trends and external factors (such as covid) are considered, there are work factors such as: early promotion, change of employers and change in subject choices which are not visible. For instance, most employers would deem promotion of an apprentice to a more experienced role, to be a success. Also, an apprentice could start at company A, leave and complete their training at company B – at present a failure and a success are recorded for this transition, however this should be measured as a single success for the apprentice.
- The view of apprenticeship success is one single figure, without taking sectors, and regions into account. Employers offering engineering apprenticeships, may have a higher % completion rate than hospitality for example. Knowledge of these outcomes would be useful from all perspectives.
- Transparency in the data which makes up the overall completion figures would be useful, including removing employer related reasons for leaving from a provider’s overall achievement rates e.g. redundancy, left employment, etc.
- Other measures showing impact should be considered; pay rise, promotion, moving to new employment (using apprenticeship), learner experience and productivity. If a modular approach was taken, reporting on outcomes at this level could be useful.
- A more definitive IAG (Matrix Standard) at the offset of an apprenticeship will assist in clear measures throughout. Simplification of the kind of the data which is reported would make this a faster and more intuitive process.
- Ofsted measures could include apprenticeship outcomes such as in-house promotion and success stories. This could help employers to create meaningful KPIs and more supportive functions.
- Employers are concerned with quality e.g., more face-to-face training delivery. There is concern that inflationary pressures make this harder for providers to meet.
- The DfE document published to accompany the recent achievement rates data (March 2023) should be more visible and easier to access.
The event was a fantastic success, with a full turnout, and formed a crucial part of a wider conversation on how, as a sector, we can incentivise completions and ensure positive outcomes for individuals who take up an apprenticeship.
We wish to extend our sincere thanks to everyone who attended; in particular, to Emily Austin and Emily Jones, David Marsh, Jane Hadfield, Charlotte Bosworth for sharing their perspectives on behalf of providers, employers and EPAOs, as well as Anthony Chalmers and Jane Belfourd at the Department for Education for their insightful contributions.