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The Future of Apprenticeships in England


Last updated: 9th Nov 2016 | Status: Final









This page brings together AELP’s position and policy papers on Apprenticeships, alongside relevant documentation for the Government’s proposed reforms in England.


  1. The Government drive for Apprenticeships

a. The policy priority of the current administration for Apprenticeships was clearly set out in 2015 in the paper “English Apprenticeships: Our 2020 Vision”. This included a commitment to achieve 3m Apprenticeships by the end of the current session of Parliament (2020).

b. Parliament itself issued a Briefing Paper in August 2015 entitled “Apprenticeships Policy, England 2015” which gave an overall view of Apprenticeships policy, development and funding, plus a list of other useful sources

c. A wide range of statistical tables and analysis of Apprenticeships delivery (including geographical, sector and diversity breakdowns) can be found in the FE Data Library on this link

A Freedom of Information request established that in 2014-15, independent training providers were responsible for delivering 76% of Apprenticeships in England.  This was either as direct delivers or as subcontractors to FE colleges (see Downloadable Files below). 


  1. AELP’s position

a. Apprenticeships form a key central tenet of the AELP “Manifesto for Driving an Economic Recovery”.

b. In AELP’s view, we need to impress upon the Government that the sector is supportive of any moves to increase the availability and quality of Apprenticeships, but that to achieve this will require the full input of providers and other stakeholders in ensuring the creation of a viable, accessible, effective and high-quality programme.

c. We firmly believe that Apprenticeships are a proven and successful learning programme, popular with employers and learners alike, providing a solid base for career advancement over the course of a working lifetime. There should always be an ambition to improve, even on the best programmes, and we therefore would support any reforms that successfully build on what is already good, and help to eliminate any areas of weakness or poor practice that may exist.

d. With this in mind, we support in principle the overall drive to increase employer engagement in the design of Apprenticeships to ensure that they properly reflect the needs of industry and the economy at large, and to encourage a greater resource contribution from employers to fund a demand-led programme which clearly provides bottom-line benefits to their businesses.

e. This drive must always however be balanced with the needs and aspirations of the Apprentices themselves, who should always have access to all the information they need regarding the full range of options and pathways available to them in both local labour markets and well beyond. Achieving such a balance will reinforce the reputation of the benefits of Apprenticeships to all.

f. We believe that Apprenticeship providers are a vital part of the overall “solution” for Apprenticeships, working in partnership as they already do with hundreds of thousands of employers all over the country and possessing the expertise and infrastructure to engage many more. Their abilities to engage and enthuse learners to join Apprenticeship programmes, and to mentor and support them when participating, should also not be underestimated. It is vital therefore that the provider voice is properly heard and taken account of when decisions regarding the shape, quality and viability of Apprenticeship programmes going forward are being considered.

g. There is also an overriding need for simplicity in funding Apprenticeships, retaining a focus on the interests of not just the 2% of employers paying the proposed Apprenticeship levy but also on the 98% of SMEs who will not.

SMEs account for more than half of Apprenticeship opportunities helping to make the programme inclusive for young people and adults in both rural and urban areas.  AELP believes that the imposition by government of mandatory upfront cash contributions from smaller businesses towards the cost of the training could have a very damaging impact.


  1. Trailblazers and Apprenticeship Standards

a. Information on the Standards now produced by employers and agreed by the government can be found here, and information on the Standards currently being developed by employer groups can be found here.

b. In March 2014 the government published the first Apprenticeship Standards developed by the Phase 1 Trailblazers. Apprentices started on Phase 1 Trailblazers in the Automotive, and Energy and Utility sectors in September 2014 and the remainder of went live in early 2015.

c. In December 2014 SFA published a number of new Phase 2 Trailblazer Standards, but confirmed that a Standard is only available for delivery when the assessment plan has been approved and the Standard has been allocated a Core Government Contribution.

d. Phase 3 includes a Trailblazer for the Education and Training sector, supported by AELP, which is developing four Standards for tutor-assessors, teachers and lecturers.

e. The most recent guidance document entitled Future of Apprenticeships in England: Guidance for Trailblazers (version 3 – Dec 2015) sets out the end to end process for:

  • applying to develop a standard
  • drafting the standard and assessment plan
  • preparing for delivery

It contains tools to help employer groups, as well as details of the timing and process for the submission of bids, draft standards and draft assessment plans.

f. Through the Apprenticeship Staff Support Programme (ASSP) and more recently the Future Apprenticeships project, AELP has been working with AoC and UVAC (representing universities) to set up Provider Reference Groups (PRGs) to work with the Trailblazers to ensure providers are engaged as they develop their processes. A full list of the current Provider Reference Groups in operation is available here.


  1. The Apprenticeship Levy

a. A consultation of the introduction of an Apprenticeship levy was launched by the Government in August 2015. AELP’s submission to the consultation can be found here.

b. The Government’s response to the consultation was published in November 2015. The Chancellor formally announced the introduction of an Apprenticeship levy in his Autumn Statement of November 2015.

c. AELP have produced a series of Briefing Papers providing Q+As on all aspects of the Apprenticeship levy. The most recent version can be found here.

d. In February 2016 HMRC published a policy paper entitled “Apprenticeship Levy” which gives an overview of the policy position and details of its implementation. The paper can be accessed here

e. In April 2016 the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published a webpage with more detail of the plans for the levy, entitled "Apprenticeship Levy: How It Will Work".

f. In August 2016, the Department for Education published further consultation documents on the proposed levy funding arrangements and the registers for apprenticeship training providers and employer providers ( and  AELP responded to these in one submission (


  1. Funding

a. The current funding methodology for Apprenticeships in the current year via the Skills Funding Agency can be found here.

b. The current funding methodology for Trailblazer standards in the current year can be found here.



Resources are also available for AELP members and their employer customers to lobby local MPs and other stakeholder organisations on Apprenticeships and other matters.

We always ask AELP members to support our representations by lobbying their local MPs, opinion-formers and stakeholder organisations.

To lobby MPs and others, members can choose to use our various responses and submissions, or its Parliamentary Newsletter as briefing material as well as drawing from their own consultation response. A specimen covering letter is available, but members are recommended to customise the letter to make it local, e.g. ‘We train X number of apprentices on behalf of Y number of employers in Newtown and Oldtown’.

For members contacting an MP for the first time, AELP has provided a ‘how to’ toolkit, ‘Building Relationships with Local MPs’.



‘Apprenticeships – Getting Beneath the Surface’: Local MP visits

AELP is working with the Edge Foundation on an MP provider visits programme designed to ‘educate’ local MPs on what the delivery of an Apprenticeship really involves. Although AELP has itself periodically encouraged members to build relationships with local MPs, the apprenticeship reform process means that the time is right to get a concerted effort started in terms of scheduling visits.  We therefore urge AELP members to start arranging visits for their local MPs and a comprehensive ‘how to’ pack has been prepared to make this as easy as possible for busy providers.  The pack includes: 

  1. Why, What and When introductory briefing for the provider, including a suggested agenda for the visit
  2. draft letter of invitation to send to your local MP(s)
  3. 1-page briefing note to give to the MP to which you can add your own logo
  4. draft press release about the visit.

To obtain a copy of the pack, please contact the Admin Team at AELP (email: [email protected]) and we would be grateful if members could feed back the outcome of any visits to Aidan Relf (email: [email protected]).



Downloadable Files

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