The Richards Report
In 2012 the government commissioned Doug Richards to conduct a full review of the current Apprenticeship programme, resulting in the publication of the ‘Richards Report’ with a number of recommendations.
In redefining Apprenticeships the Richards report recommendations include:
  • They should be targeted only at those who are new to a job or role that requires sustained and substantial training
  • Focusing on the outcome of an apprenticeship - what the apprentice can do when they complete their training - and freeing up the process by which they get there. Trusted, independent assessment is key
  • Recognised industry standards should form the basis of every apprenticeship
  • All apprentices should reach a good level in English and maths before they can complete their apprenticeship
  • Government funding must create the right incentives for apprenticeship training. The purchasing power for investing in apprenticeship training should lie with the employer
  • Greater diversity and innovation in training - with employers and government safeguarding quality.
Commenting on the launch of his report, Doug Richards said:
“No matter who I speak with, everyone agrees that apprenticeships are a good thing - but only when they are ‘true’ apprenticeships. With the myriad of learning experiences which are currently labelled as apprenticeships, we risk losing sight of the core features of what makes apprenticeships work so my conclusion is that we need to look again at what it means to be an apprentice and what it means to offer an apprenticeship as an employer.

Apprenticeships need to be high quality training with serious kudos and tangible value both to the apprentice and the employer. I want to hear about an 18 year old who looked at their options and turned down a place at Oxbridge to take up an apprenticeship if that is the right path for them. And I want to hear that their parents were thrilled. We need to make sure that apprenticeships are the success story they deserve to be.”

The government has welcomed the report. Business Secretary Vince Cable said:
“Doug Richard’s review echoes the Government’s current thinking on putting employers in the driving seat of our apprenticeship programme. This will be vital to ensure the skills of our workforce fit with employer needs. His recommendations will help us to build on the current successes of our apprenticeships programme and tailor a programme which is sustainable, high-quality and meets the changing needs of our economy in the decades to come”.

The Government response was - The Future of Apprenticeships in England: Implementation Plan. Promising rigor and responsiveness, the key measures were to:
  • Put employers in the driving seat
  • Increase the quality of apprenticeships
  • Simplify the system
  • Give employers purchasing power
Trailblazers & Apprenticeship Standards
The job of taking the recommendations and fundamentally changing Apprenticeships became the task of the department of Business Innovation & Skills (BIS). Their starting point was to set up Trailblazer Apprenticeship groups for each industry sector to define the Apprenticeship standard for their sector. The Trailblazer groups include employers and professional bodies but can include colleges, providers and awarding organisations. So what do the new Apprenticeships look like?

Each Apprenticeship has the following:
  • Apprenticeship Standard (ideally a 1 page document very similar to a job description)
  • Assessment plan (synoptic end point assessment conducted by an independent third party)
  • Numeracy & Literacy requirements
Each Apprenticeship Standard defines the following:
  • Title and occupational Profile (which sector and roles that it may be suitable for)
  • Requirements: Skills, Knowledge & Behaviours
  • Duration (12 months min for all but could be longer)
  • Qualifications (Optional as there is no requirement for standards to include any formal competence of knowledge qualification)
  • Links to professional registrations/memberships (where appropriate) Level
Each Assessment plan defines the following:
  • The point at which assessment can take place (usually after the minimum duration)
  • What will be assessed and how (e.g. portfolio of evidence, interview by panel, professional discussion)
  • Who can carry out the assessment (independent Assessment Organisation)
  • Grading (this is a new concept and all assessment must have grading with very few exceptions)
  • Quality assurance arrangements for Assessment organisations (new)
With regards to Functional Skills, the levels have been set as follows:
  • Level 2 Apprenticeship = Level 1 Functional Skills
  • Level 3 Apprenticeship or higher = Level 2 Functional Skills
GCSEs, A-C in English & Maths remain the as full exemptions (as per current defined list of exemptions)
A recent change to the functional skills guidance is that whilst Level 2 apprentices may only require the functional skills at level 1 to complete their Apprenticeship, they must be supported and developed to Level 2 and take the functional skills tests at Level 2 at some point before the end point assessment. There is however no requirement to pass/achieve the Functional Skills at Level 2 within the Standards for a Level 2 Apprenticeship. Whilst there are a number of standards ready for delivery this doesn’t mean there is also an assessment organisation ready for the end point assessment.

Organisations wishing to be an Assessment Organisation can only apply after the Assessment Plan has been approved by BIS. Assessment organisations can be owned by Awarding Organisations but must be structured and operated as a wholly independent business.  Equally a provider can also apply to be an Assessment Organisation, but again must be wholly independent and cannot assess its own provision.

The list of Apprenticeship standards and a register of Assessment Organisations and their current status changes on a daily basis and is maintained at:

The quality of provision during the teaching and learning phase of the Apprenticeship will remain the responsibility of those parties engaged in delivery. This will be subject to Ofsted Inspection but under what inspection framework remains to be seen.

This does however suggest training providers will continue to monitor their provision and employ a cycle of continuous improvement in order to satisfy Ofsted and also to remain attractive and competitive to prospective employers seeking apprentices. Equally, where a formal qualification is a pre-requisite before end point assessment, then Training providers will also need to utilise internal quality assurance to satisfy Awarding Organisation and legislative requirements.

BIS will continue to approve Employer Groups, Apprenticeship Standards and Assessment Plans in the short term but a new organisation, the Institute for Apprenticeship, which is scheduled to come into being in April 2017, will take over this task from BIS and may also be responsible for the quality assurance of Assessment organisations.

The Institute for Apprenticeships will be;
  • An independent employer-led body that will regulate the quality of apprenticeships (shadow form from 2016) and:
  • An independent Chair will lead a small Board of employers, business leaders and their representatives
  • Outline role:
  • Approve/reject EOIs, standards and assessment plans
  • Provide advice and guidance during their development
  • Determine policy on when standards need to be refreshed or closed
  • Advise on funding for each standard

Shadow Chief Executive appointed – Rachel Sandy Thomas

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