Viewpoint Series: Bumpy road ahead for English apprenticeships?

The 2015 Conservative Party election manifesto commits the government to delivering three million new apprenticeships by 2020, so 'young people have the skills to succeed' and employers get the skills they need. Reforming English apprenticeships is both the centrepiece and main measure of success of this government's skills policy. In this Viewpoint, SQW examines the coherence or otherwise of current apprenticeship policy in England.


We consider the dominant long-standing issue of low employer engagement in the light of evidence of employer dissatisfaction with (and progress in the take up of) apprenticeships. Is the current root and branch reform programme diverting attention away from central to marginal issues?

We conclude current apprenticeship policy is insufficiently employer-led and evidence based to overturn decades of weak employer engagement, or to deliver three million high quality new apprenticeships by 2020.

Our examination of the evidence suggests four central issues need to be addressed:

  • Changing the proposition for smaller businesses
  • Revisiting what employers value about apprenticeship frameworks and trailblazer standards
  • Taking a more sectoral approach to apprenticeships
  • Examining the offer for training providers for whom the current system offers a poor blend of risk and return.

Download the Viewpoint here: Bumpy road ahead for English apprenticeships?