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Funding policy for older apprenticeships receives mixed reaction

A proposed shift in further education funding that could result in a rise in the number of apprentices aged over 24, has received a mixed welcome. Some feel that the suggested change could have a negative impact on younger apprentices as it could mean less funding for their apprentice positions.

Business secretary, Vince Cable, outlined numerous funding models aimed at making it easier for employers to take on an apprentice, in July of this year. Among his suggestions were a direct model of funding, in which Government investment would be paid directly to employees, and a PAYE system, under which funding would be claimed back via tax contributions. Another suggestion was providers being paid directly by the Government, thus retaining the model that is currently in place.

However, Government proposals relating to the funding reforms – which follow the Richards Review of Apprenticeships – will fall short of the mark, critics feel, believing instead that the Government should focus on improving the existing apprenticeship system, and try to interest more employers in taking on apprentices.

Unionlearn, the education arm of the TUC, said that while it believed that the suggested boost to older apprenticeship was a good thing, it was not convinced that all apprenticeships currently running were suitable. “We are concerned that many current apprenticeships for adults are little more than accreditation of the work they are currently doing and contain little in the way of progression,” a spokesperson said.

Earlier this year, the Department for Education reported that 16 to 18-year-olds were losing out on apprenticeships to older applicants, with young apprentice starts falling as overall apprentice positions rose.

Tony Dolphin, chief economist at the Institute for Public Policy Research, told FE Week: “This Government — as did the previous one — is making a lot about big increases in overall apprenticeship numbers, but the group for which apprenticeships really should apply is seeing numbers falling.”

“The risk, given we’re in a world of limited funding, is that if there is more money available for older apprentices, then there will be less available for younger people," he added.