Apprenticeship reform pulls in the crowds in Bournemouth

Apprenticeship reform pulls in the crowds in Bournemouth

“Is apprenticeship reform the answer to the UK’s skills crisis?” was the topic for a packed fringe meeting at Prospect’s conference in Bournemouth.


With one quarter of UK vacancies unfilled because of skills shortages, particularly technical and analytical skills, the discussion focused on the government’s apprenticeship reform programme and how it will boost growth and productivity.

Speakers explored a number of issues, including:

  • the impact of the apprenticeship levy on business

  • the impact of the mandate for 2.3% of the workforce in the public sector to be apprentices

  • whether work-based opportunities can drive UK economic growth.

The speakers were Alison Fuller, chair of vocational education and work at UCL Institute of Education; Tanya Lawes, from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ apprenticeship directorate and Dave Goodall from BAE Systems.

Satnam Ner from Prospect’s national executive  committee chaired the event.

All three speakers broadly supported the government’s apprentice reform agenda. They recognised that it could increase apprentice numbers to meet skills demands and provide pathways into work for young people.

They also agreed that the programme could increase quality standards across apprenticeship programmes and have a positive impact on UK growth and productivity.

However, they did urge some caution. To achieve the productivity levels required, apprenticeships should be “expansive” in terms of progression, quality and access.

Questions were also raised about whether all apprenticeships develop new skills and the robustness of this learning model.

The meeting also highlighted the lack of awareness and knowledge about impending apprenticeship reform among the wider business community and workers in England. Areas include the apprenticeship levy, business involvement in meeting their workforce skill needs and the impact on the devolved administrations, given that skills is a devolved policy matter.  

Rachel Bennett, Prospect’s Life Long Learning Officer said: “The meeting was full and I think members found it very useful to hear about the changes to apprenticeships in England and what the apprenticeship levy will mean for their workplaces.

“Prospect is very keen to support high-quality apprenticeship schemes, so events like this which can bring members up to speed with the latest developments are every important.”

To find out more about Prospect’s skills work and engagement in vocational learning, please visit our Careersmart website.