High quality apprenticeships are crucial routes in helping young people reach their potential, and they provide excellent career development, as well as retraining opportunities later in life. Apprenticeships offer great opportunities: for people of all ages to get the skills they need to progress; increase the productivity of this country; and act as a powerful driver for economic growth and social mobility.
The government’s ambitious agenda of skills reform has over the last year gained extraordinary momentum, including the successful launch of the Institute for Apprenticeships on 1 April this year. The Institute was established as an independent and employer-led body to assure the quality of apprenticeships, support trailblazers to develop new apprenticeship standards and assessment plans and provide advice to government on the funding bands for apprenticeships. We are a non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Education and have offices in both London and Coventry, employing just under 90 members of staff and with a total annual budget of £9,655,800.
In April, through our Operational Plan and through the Department for Education’s Strategic Guidance, we articulated in some detail the key reasons for the Institute’s establishment and the functions it would undertake. Whilst in this update, these are again briefly revisited, this short publication aims to focus more on what we have achieved over our first six months and what we will focus on during the remainder of the operational year.
I recognise that this is very much the start of a journey and that the Institute still has a number of challenges to address and process improvements to make. What I am sure of, however, is the commitment of the Institute’s Board and staff to deliver this with a positive and innovative approach, working with employers to improve the system for developing apprenticeship standards and ultimately deliver technical and professional education.
This publication highlights achievements but importantly gives a broad outline of the ways in which the Institute aims to build and improve – always keeping the needs and views of employers at the forefront of the changes we plan to make.
1.1 The Institute was established as part of the government’s response to the Richard review of apprenticeships to support employers to create and maintain high quality apprenticeship standards for occupations in their sectors. We lead the work, with our partners, to establish what is meant by and expected from a quality apprenticeship, and that this is secured for all employers and apprentices. The Institute provides robust and timely advice to the Department for Education on funding bands for apprenticeship standards. We will develop the technical and professional education offer so that, through credible and desirable routes, the Institute can help employers to meet their skills gaps and develop their employees.
1.2 We have agreed a clear vision statement that describes, succinctly, the position the Institute strives to hold:
“The Institute is widely recognised and respected for our progress in securing consistently high quality apprenticeships and positive experiences for employers and learners in England”
1.3 The Institute has agreed five key corporate objectives, to help us move towards our vision:
2.1 In the Operational Plan, published in April 2017, we set out the steps we planned to take to establish the Institute and to begin to deliver our remit. This section provides details of how we have progressed against those original intentions.
2.2 We have been set up in a way that enables employers to make decisions at all stages. The Institute’s Board, made up of employers and industry experts, has met seven times and set the Institute's strategy, reviewed performance regularly and established a strong focus on operational effectiveness and quality. We have also established a number of sub-committees that provide the Board with advice on a range of technical areas such as audit and risk, remuneration and quality assurance.
2.3 We have appointed to all fifteen route panels, including chairs to lead panels of employers across the occupational routes to consider apprenticeship standards and assessment plans developed in the trailblazer groups. Those appointed have all been chosen for their standing in their sectors and for the expertise they bring. To add even further to the employer-led emphasis, we have recruited independent peer reviewers from across a wide range of industries to provide further help with the development of apprenticeship standards.
2.4 To staff the organisation, we have recruited a group of talented and motivated individuals from a variety of backgrounds, each chosen both for the skills and experience they can bring and their potential to develop with the organisation. Our 87 members of staff have all been successfully inducted into the organisation, are aware of the Institute’s core purpose (and how their role fits into that purpose) and have been given the tools and support to deliver their responsibilities effectively. Following feedback from employers and stakeholders, we are now moving into a developmental period to further develop our capability, understanding and approach.
2.5 Developing apprenticeship standards and assessment plans is the Institute’s core business. We support trailblazers to develop apprenticeship standards, advise on funding bands, approve, publish and manage the reviews of those standards. We are currently supporting over 250 trailblazers (and over 2600 employers) to add to the 206 apprenticeship standards already published. We have successfully undertaken seven rounds of approvals, considering apprenticeship standards and assessment plans, each round meeting the six-week approval target. We are now managing these approval rounds through the appointed route panels.
2.6 As well as underpinning the functions of the Institute itself, it has been important for us to consult widely on quality to get a broad range of views on how to raise the quality of apprenticeships. In order to support this aim, we have established a panel of interested and expert organisations known as ‘the Quality Alliance’. The panel is now well-established, providing advice on quality to the Institute’s Board.
2.7 So far, the Quality Alliance has focused on the supporting the Institute to develop a Quality Statement, a clear definition of what a quality apprenticeship looks like. The statement was released for consultation on www.gov.uk at the end of September.
2.8 The Institute also has a two-fold role to play in terms of external quality assurance (EQA). As the organisation responsible for the overall approach to EQA, we have worked hard with all the organisations providing EQA services to ensure that consistent and effective quality assurance is delivered. In terms of our own EQA service, we initially implemented an in-house approach whilst undertaking the sourcing and contracting of an organisation to carry out the role on our behalf. An organisation called ‘Open Awards’ were awarded the contract from 1 August 2017, for delivery until March 2018, and we are working closely with them and monitoring the delivery of the EQA service.
2.9 Obtaining the views and feedback from those involved in apprenticeships is vital to our continued development. The Quality Alliance has input in respect of quality and we have established the Apprentice Panel and the Stakeholder Reference Panel as part of our approach to listening to the whole apprenticeship sector. The three panels are by no means the only ways in which apprentices and stakeholders can and do contribute to the development of our approach but all three report their views and findings to the Board. We are also keen to understand the views of employers and trailblazers and conduct surveys of those employers we are working with to assess their view of the service we are providing.
2.10 A key pillar of our future service approach is developing an interactive digital offering for trailblazers and stakeholders to communicate with the Institute. The first step towards this was the launch of our website, which went live on 9 October 2017. In the first instance the website is focussed on provision of information, guidance and support but further interactive functionality will be added over coming months tailored to the needs of employers and apprentices.
2.11 In just six months, we have established the structures and governance to deliver our core functions. This is, however, just the start. We know that we now need to focus on streamlining and improving our approach, taking into account feedback we have received from our stakeholders. We will:
2.12 These will be our key priorities over the next six months. Our approach is explained further in section 3
3.1 We know from feedback from trailblazers and other stakeholders that there is more to do to improve the full standards development process (from the development work led by trailblazers through to the approvals process) and, equally, the time it takes. We have already undertaken a review of our internal end-to-end process and identified a range of measures to streamline and, where possible, undertake aspects of the current process simultaneously to cut down on the overall time taken.
3.2 This streamlining of process will be accompanied with efforts to improve the way we support trailblazers. We will introduce a formal agreement with trailblazers which will clarify roles and responsibilities and manage expectations. Additionally we plan to run intensive workshops with trailblazers, concentrating the standards development work into a short series of focussed meetings. We will also continue to consult, survey and request feedback from trailblazers to ensure the employer focused approach remains at the forefront of our work.
3.3 On being established in April 2017, we moved quickly to develop our capability to provide funding band advice to the Department for Education. From autumn 2017, we took on full responsibility for this function from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). The current approach, however, is lengthy for Trailblazers and resource intensive for the Institute. Over the next six months we will be exploring options to speed up the process, bring greater transparency, and promote value for money.
3.4 We will develop our website – increasing our digital offering – by launching further online services. By April 2018, we will have developed an interactive service which provides a much smoother process of accessing information and which gives trailblazer groups and all employers continually updated information on the progress of the apprenticeship standards and assessment plans being developed.
3.5 The Quality Statement, which the Institute and its Quality Alliance has developed to define what a high quality apprenticeship looks like, was made available for consultation at the end of September. The consultation feedback is now being thoroughly considered as part of the development of the final Quality Statement.
3.6 We intend to use this Quality Statement as the core reference point for our work on apprenticeships and we will expect employers, colleges, providers and universities to use it when considering the design and quality of their own apprenticeships. We will also use the statement as the basis for a Quality Strategy, which we will develop with employers, our apprentice’s panel and our stakeholders.
3.7 The Institute is preparing to deliver an expanded remit on technical and professional education and we remain actively involved in discussions with the Department for Education over the details of the transition, including timescales and resources. The creation and management of occupational maps, a core element of the proposed approach to technical and professional education development, will shortly be the responsibility of the Institute.
4.1 We are always keen to speak to people who want to either learn more about the work of the Institute or suggest ways in which quality can be further improved. For such enquiries please email: email@example.com. If your enquiry relates to the work of the Institute, we will provide a full response as soon as possible (depending on the complexity of the issue). If the subject of your enquiry actually relates to the work or responsibility of another organisation, the Institute will point you towards the best way to contact them.
4.2 Further information on the work of the Institute for Apprenticeships, including guidance for establishing a trailblazer group and a list of all apprenticeship standards either approved or in development, can be found on our website: www.instituteforapprenticeships.org .