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Apprenticeship advice is free: why pay for it?

The Department for Education has angered a group of employers by advertising new positions that will provide advice

According to the employers, this advice can already be obtained for free.

The department is looking to appoint members to its new Technical Education Panels of Professionals, which will help to determine the occupational standards for new technical apprenticeship qualifications; however, these new standards are already being discussed by dozens of Trailblazer groups across the country on a voluntary basis.

The Trailblazers are small groups of employers from technical sectors, including engineering, maritime, health and science, that have been tasked with discussing and developing apprenticeships standards specific to the different job roles in their sector.

The standards they are helping to create will either be new, such as specific to job roles that have not had an apprenticeship programme before, or will gradually supersede existing apprenticeship frameworks for job roles. The schemes cover a massive 13 million job roles in the existing economy.

The steps to improve standards are just part of the implementation of the report by Lord Sainsbury on technical education. The report recommended simplifying the current system so that technical education is provided through 15 high-quality routes, with standards set by employers; now, two years after the Trailblazer groups started meeting regularly to discuss the issues and come up with improved standards, the Department for Education is looking to set up the Technical Education Panels of Professionals to perform an almost identical role.

The Technical Education Panels of Professionals will sit in a newly-formed Institute for Apprenticeships, which will expand to encompass all technical education and will deliver reforms across both apprenticeships-based and college-based routes. The Institute will become operational in April this year and will formally take responsibility for technical education in April 2018.

Many of the employers involved in the Trailblazers scheme are bemused and angered by the move. They believe that not only does it represent a waste of money – paying for advice that can already be obtained for free – but also undermines the employers’ role in the implementation of the new standards.

The employers say that the Trailblazer groups, being employer-led, enable the reforms to be more specific and workable, while the government move to usurp them seems intent on devaluing the time and effort already put in by the volunteers, which has been extensive.

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