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Sector news, 27 March - 9 April 2016

Providers question reforms as survey reveals high employer satisfaction TES, 8 April, 2016

The rationale behind the government’s radical programme of apprenticeship reform was called into question after a new survey revealed that employers were largely satisfied with the training currently on offer. The annual FE Choices survey, run by the Skills Funding Agency, allows employers and learners to rate providers according to their satisfaction levels. TES analysis of the results for 2014-15 reveals that almost 92 per cent of providers were given a rating of seven or more out of 10 for employer satisfaction. There was also an increase of three percentage points in the proportion of providers that were given a rating of nine or more (18 per cent) compared with 2013-14. The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said that the figures demonstrated that “the current system works and delivers what employers want and need”. But the CBI business lobby organisation welcomed moves to give employers greater control over apprenticeships, arguing that they can “better identify the needs and challenges in their sectors”.

'Vocational spin on GCSEs can stop the failure cycle' TES, 9 April 2016

Sally Dicketts, chief executive of Activate Learning, wrote an article in the TES about Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw’s comment last month that 16-19 year-olds would be better off in schools. He said his comment was based on students’ poor performance in GCSE English and maths retakes, though as Ms Dicketts points out, schools had failed to prepare them to succeed in 11 years of teaching. She said there was a clear difference in colleges where English and maths were embedded in the vocational curriculum, concluding: “We need to stop being lazy in the way that we make judgements about student attainment, and instead understand the literacy and numeracy skills that are required for success in employment and in life.”

'Partiality' of school careers advice disadvantages learners, report claims TES, 7 April 2016

A lack of appropriate careers guidance about vocational training routes may be holding back young people in their search for work, according to a new report by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) and Pearson. The study analysed reasons for young people remaining Neet (not in education, employment or training) rather than progressing into employment. It concludes that learners were often not aware of the shortage of jobs in some sectors and suggests young people could have unrealistic expectations about careers and the world of work. The report questions the “partiality” and availability of face-to-face guidance in schools which it argues could cause young people to remain in schools instead of exploring other options. In January, education secretary Nicky Morgan announced a new law would require state schools to give vocational routes as much weight as academic options when providing careers advice to pupils.

National Living Wage could lead to apprentices being used as cheap labour, awarding body warns TES, 1 April 2016

The introduction of the new National Living Wage today could contribute to apprenticeships being used as an opportunity for cheap labour, the chief executive of business organisation City & Guilds Group has warned. Chief executive Chris Jones said that while there was potentially much to gain from Britain getting a pay rise, the impact on the economy was still unclear. He said: “Under-25s being excluded from the new living wage, combined with the introduction of the new apprenticeship levy, makes me concerned that apprenticeships could be seen as an opportunity for cheap labour, instead of as a way to develop the vital skills businesses need to be productive. That would be short-sighted and harm our long-term economic prospects.”