Five Years on: pushing through the Richard Review

FE News reports that when Doug Richard revealed the findings of his review, he said; ‘No matter who I speak to, everyone agrees that apprenticeships are a good thing’. Five years on, and we’re seeing even more people both inside and out of the sector developing an understanding of the value of apprenticeships, and their role in helping fill the UK’s critical skills gap and improve the UK’s productivity.

However, there’s a sense from those within the further education sector that the past five years have gone extremely quickly. And indeed, five years isn’t long to adapt to the new apprenticeships order. But with the sobering figures released by DfE last week, it’s clear that the Richard Review, our Government’s interpretation of it, and all the collective work that came after it, is starting to have a considerable impact– whether we’re ready for it or not.

I’ve summarised a few thoughts on how far we’ve managed to uphold the spirit of some aspects of the review with its focus on outcomes and industry-led models, what sort of headway there has been to embrace the innovation apprenticeships undoubtedly need, and whether – so far – their promotion is doing the trick.

“Focusing on the outcome”

Richard’s overall sense was that apprenticeships had become too bulky, with all the focus on achieving a multitude of qualifications, and too many optional units and pathways leaving employers unclear over what skills an apprentice had actually gained. In particular, he felt that employers were too far removed from the development process, and unable to effect change in areas that really needed it. He felt that by reducing complexity in the on-programme element of apprenticeships they would be infinitely more attractive to employers, who would get the readily adaptable model they wanted.

The government’s interpretation of this is manifested in the new standards being developed by employer groups, designed to make sure that apprentices reach an agreed benchmark. The result, theoretically, should be an apprentice well-equipped for the future, both for their own personal success and that of UK plc.

There remains a startling absence of information for small businesses, and still somewhat of a stigma and a sense of confusion about what the new standards will really achieve. But stakeholders in the industry are drawing attention to this issue, so the hope is that sooner or later the powers that be will find a way to better communicate with what is always a difficult to audience to reach.

It’s clear from looking at just part of what has been achieved over the last five years that we’ve come a long way. It’s equally apparent that there’s a long way to go, and that the road will continue to curve – and not necessarily in all the right places.

Read the full article including What next? Five Years on: pushing through the Richard Review

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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