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Providing evidence to shape and inform debates on apprenticeships and VET

With the introduction of Modern Apprenticeships in 1994, the vocational education and training (VET) system in England underwent a major transformation. Recent numbers of young people starting apprenticeships and the quality of provision raised some concerns. Consequently, significant vocational education and apprenticeship reforms were initiated in 2011 with the publication of the Wolf Report and in 2012 following the Richard Review of Apprenticeships in England. IER has a long -stablished track record in researching and monitoring these changes in order to engage in debate and shape policy.

Since the early 1990s, IER has been engaged in a programme of research that has evaluated various changes to the VET system with respect to levels of employer and learner engagement and the returns each obtains from their investments in VET. The programme of research at IER has obtained substantial funding from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (and its predecessor ministries). IER has undertaken the Net Costs of Training series (See Employer Investment in Apprenticeships and Workplace Learning: The Fifth Net Benefits of Training to Employers Study, 2012), which has estimated the net cost to the employer of providing Apprenticeship and other forms of work-based learning. These studies provided an indication of the time taken by employers to recoup their investment in this type of training.

IER have also undertaken a number of empirical studies evaluating particular aspects of the VET system for UK Government departments. These studies look at employer rationales for investing in VET and the role of public funding and the how completion rates can be improved and international comparative research from Cedefop.

IER’s work on apprenticeships is regularly cited in Government publications and the research is seen as providing definitive assessments of how changes in the VET system affects employer and learner behaviour. This research has had significant impact, as it has: provided the framework for evaluating the impact of apprenticeships and initial vocational and training more widely; been used in the National Audit Office’s review of apprenticeship training; provided an assessment of the returns to employers from investing in apprenticeships, influencing debate about the funding of VET; and developed a means of identifying the costs and benefits of training, used to persuade employers to participate in apprenticeships.

This impact summary is currently being updated with new evidence.

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