Responding to the recommendations of a review led by the Employer Reference Group and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) John Hayes said that firms that contract directly with the Government to train apprentices will now benefit from simplified payment, reporting and assessment requirements.
They will also receive better guidance to help them manage the recruitment, training and assessment of apprentices more efficiently and cost effectively.
Hayes said: “I’m determined that more employers and learners than ever should have the opportunity to benefit from our unprecedented investment in apprenticeships. Where red tape and bureaucracy deters employers from taking on apprentices, we’ll sweep it away.
“That will give more firms access to the skills they need to thrive, creating new jobs and new growth, and it will give many more individuals better prospects and the chance to gain a real stake in society.”
The Business Secretary Vince Cable added his support by saying: “Apprenticeships are proving an increasingly effective training route for young people and companies. They are a proven way to fill skills gaps in our economy. That’s why we are boosting the number of apprenticeships and putting them at the heart of our Skills for Growth strategy.
“But for far too long too many businesses have been put off by overly complex procedures and unnecessary layers of paperwork. We’ve worked with business to cut bureaucracy and ensure the benefits for employers, learners and the economy are maximised”.
One of the key aspects of the action plan for cutting red tape for employers will be to provide an online plain-English toolkit for employers that clearly explains the end-to-end processes employers need to undertake for apprenticeships. The Government will also be taking a more proportionate approach to audit and inspection, using a lot of electronic information – reducing preparation time for employers.
Susan Anderson, CBI Director for Education & Skills policy, said: “We welcome today’s report and the Government’s commitment to expanding apprenticeship schemes. Apprenticeships are vital to developing the skills that support economic growth and many employers already deliver excellent programmes.
“Cutting bureaucracy will support even more businesses to become involved and these recommendations set out the right path for reform. They recognise that employers are primarily concerned with the day-to-day running of their businesses, and that they are committed to offering high quality training as their reputation and business success depends on this. We will work with government to take these plans forward”.
However there is not universal praise for the scheme as Charlie Mullins, founder & MD of Pimilico Plumbers, said: “When I first saw Vince Cable’s announcement I thought that government had finally started to deal with this problem. But, while cutting red tape is never a bad idea, it seems that his ‘big sweep’ only applies to the big boys working on government contracts.
“All of a sudden the big sweep ain’t that big. If the private sector is to lead the recovery and become the backbone of future prosperity, then changes like this have to be inclusive, not exclusive.”
He added: “Most people in work in this country are not working on or alongside government contracts, so how about cutting the miles of red tape that is strangling the rest of us?”
The Government has put the expansion of a high-quality, employer-led apprenticeships programme at the heart of a reformed skills system. This year’s budget included an additional £150m to deliver 50,000 additional apprenticeships, and in July the Prime Minister announced details of a new Higher Apprenticeships Fund to help key industries including advanced manufacturing and engineering develop the advanced skills needed to drive growth and create an ownership society.
Further measures to cut red tape for SME employers taking on apprentices will be unveiled this autumn as part of the Government’s plan for growth.