Government make up apprenticeship policy as they go along

PMQ 9 March 2016With National Apprenticeship Week starting on Monday, David Cameron has been challenged by a Bristol MP over what practical steps the government is taking to deliver its pledge of three million apprenticeships by 2020.

Karin Smyth used Prime Minister’s Questions (9 March 2016) to ask Mr Cameron to clarify the delivery plan for the ambitious target. It comes as experts suggest government policy is being made up as they go along.

You can watch a video of the exchange at the foot of this page.

“People in Bristol South look forward to their share of the government’s promised three million apprenticeships, but they question how this is going to happen,” the Labour MP told the House of Commons.

PMQ 9 March 2016 CameronDavid Cameron tried to assure MPs that he does have a plan. Karin Smyth was not convinced. “The detail was – and remains – absent,” she said.

“We still await full details of how the government’s apprenticeship levy and how apprenticeship targets for the public sector will work in practice.

“Bristol people need and deserve high quality apprenticeships and, with such an ambitious target of creating three million schemes by 2020, there are inevitably fears that quality will be sacrificed for scale.

Muddied confusion

“With the theme of National Apprenticeship Week being “An apprenticeship can take you anywhere”, I’m worried the only place this government’s policy is taking us is to muddied confusion.”

A government official from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills has been quoted as saying the policy is ‘iterative and agile.’

In the House of Commons exchange, Karin Smyth asked the Prime Minister: “People in Bristol South look forward to their share of the government’s promised three million apprenticeships, but they question HOW this is going to happen. On the eve of National Apprenticeship Week can he tell us – does the government have a delivery plan, or is he making it up as he goes along?”

Mr Cameron replied: We achieved two million in the last Parliament. We’re confident of reaching three million in this Parliament. We do have a delivery plan. It’s based on large companies continuing with their plans for apprenticeships. We want small companies to do more. We want the public sector to join in with larger apprenticeship plans and we regularly review progress towards the target.”

Watch a video of the PMQ exchange:

Note: An article by Ewart Keep, Oxford University’s Director of the Centre for Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance in The DoDs Guide to Apprenticeships 2016 said “A BIS civil servant at AoC (Association of Colleges) National Conference described apprenticeship policy making as ‘iterative and agile’, which to some might sound dangerously close to making it up as we go along”.