A new apprenticeship system – the Long-term Apprenticeship Model – has been in place in the UK since May 2017. It is ‘employer led’ and aims to increase employer investment and participation in training, as well as the quality of apprenticeships.
A report by Cambridge Econometrics and FGB was commissioned to evaluate the fitness for purpose of the model design and advise on alternative or additional approaches that could enhance the model. To complement, a recent paper on Australia’s apprenticeship system is summarised.
The UK model
It is essentially a levy system, but it also tries to be predictive. All UK employers with a pay bill of over £3 million per year are required to pay the levy. The levy is paid into an apprenticeship service account, and funds in this account have to be spent on apprenticeship training and assessment. The Government tops this levy up. Below the threshold, employers will pay 10% of the cost of training and assessment with the government contributing the remaining 90%.
In addition, the modeling approach aims to “forecast apprenticeship starts and costs for both levy and non-levy employers. The use of the model should help inform the demand for apprenticeships and the budget requirements resulting from the policy changes.” This presents a challenge because it needs to take into account policy contexts, employer behavior and supply side issues. These issues include demography, the availability of potential apprentices to meet employer needs and a willingness of young people to take this learning approach beyond post-compulsory education.
What they found
They reported that:
“At this stage, it is not clear – because the policies are so new – how employers will behave in the new demand-driven system.”
Nevertheless, the model has a number of strengths, including that it was clearly structured and easy to follow. This is always a major strength for any initiative in VET! Some improvements the evaluation suggests include:
- implementing mechanisms to use data on progression and completion rates
- checking whether supply will meet demand, and consider the implications of a surplus or deficit, and
- tailoring policy assumptions to different industries and considering regional issues.
But back here in Australia…
A recent paper presented at a conference in Korea highlighted a number of challenges for Australia’s current apprenticeship system. These include attracting a pool of potential apprentices and providing adequate support if they have learning difficulties. Governments have also agreed that regulation needs to become less complex for businesses. Business interaction with all levels of government therefore need to be streamlined. It is not clear, though, whether this has occurred in relation to apprenticeships. Importantly, the paper finally looks at the role of apprenticeships in helping to support initiatives for Industry 4.0. It points out that:
“A key concern for Australia is that to date the VET sector has largely being overlooked in the National Innovation and Science Agenda. Innovation has become an increasingly important concept for Australian businesses … The pivotal role of the VET sector — and apprenticeships — in this area needs to be acknowledged and supported.”