In-service training is a vital requirement of any apprenticeship, so why has it proved so problematic that it now needs to be changed?
The training is delivered by a training provider during your apprentice’s normal working hours and, the government says, is designed to “teach your apprentice the knowledge, skills and behavior set out in the apprenticeship standards so they can achieve occupational competence”.
The aim has always been for activities such as mentoring, business visits, lectures and assignments to give learners a more complete education as they embark on a new career.
Today’s “no work” system, however, simply does not satisfy many employers and their apprentices.
The more hours a student worked, the more he spent on learning that was not part of his day-to-day role. The 20 percent rule, introduced in 2017, requires all students to spend a fifth of their time working. It was a well-intentioned policy that tried to achieve fairness through proportionality, but it just didn’t make sense. It just doesn’t mean that more hours spent on the job means more training is required.
Why would an apprentice who works more hours need additional training to be considered competent in their role and the qualification they are working towards than an apprentice with a shorter working week? And certainly one of the main benefits of an apprenticeship is the hands-on, on-the-job experience gained.
So it’s no surprise that many employers say the 20 per cent rule was the biggest barrier to entry when recruiting apprentices, and it’s not just about the impact on the apprentice; politics also hindered business. For apprentices working 48 hours a week, for example, this equates to more than 160 extra hours each year, which many employers see as lost working time.
The out-of-work learning policy is changing!
Well, from August 1, 2022The 20 percent work-free requirement for all apprenticeships will no longer apply.
It will be replaced by a base level of six hours per week, regardless of the number of hours worked by the student. This means that apprentices working more than 30 hours a week can now spend less than 20% of their time on non-work time training.
The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) said the move, which is part of a package of changes to apprenticeships, “must not weaken existing requirements but ensure the right level of training for every apprentice”. This should not be a problem for the educational providers and employers I work with.
This is an extremely sensible rule change and I think it will lead to an increase in apprenticeships. This will be done for these three reasons:
- Learners will be able to make a greater contribution at a time when many businesses are still trying to recover from the effects of the pandemic
- This levels the playing field, meaning that all apprentices will be required to complete the same number of hours outside the workplace and will not be penalized whether they work 30 hours a week or 48 hours a week.
- It will be much easier to manage without the need for complex and varied calculations that were an administrative burden
Announcing the rule change, Skills Minister Alex Burghardt said he wanted to “focus on making the system as simple and user-friendly as possible, reduce the bureaucratic burden on employers and providers and give the best possible experience for apprentices”.
Much still needs to be done to improve learning outcomes in the UK, but I believe that adapting to demands outside the workplace is a step in the right direction.
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