General election: What's on your apprenticeship wishlist for the next government?


We look ahead to the next government and find out which education policies top the wishlist for the apprenticeship and training industry.

After months of speculation, the general election is finally taking place on 4th July 2024. We look ahead to the next government and find out which education policies top the wishlist for the apprenticeship and training industry.

The leading political parties all recently published their election pledges, in what’s become known as “manifesto week”. 

Key areas of focus include boosting participation in technical and vocational education, tackling the decline in apprenticeship starts and driving up employer investment in training. There’s also emphasis on lifelong learning across the board, in order to upskill and reskill UK workers. 

But while there are positives, questions remain about whether these pledges will do enough to address the main challenges in apprenticeships and training. Soaring costs of provision, stagnant funding and skills shortages have all contributed to a difficult landscape in recent years. 

The Education Policy Institute published the following analysis of the manifesto pledges for education:

  • Conservatives: Few commitments that seek to address the key challenges facing education and a number of commitments that are largely unnecessary distractions and unlikely to have any real impact on improving outcomes or tackling inequalities
  • Labour: Aims to tackle more of the immediate challenges facing the system, including introducing a child poverty strategy and new Young Futures hubs. But there are still key omissions from Labour, particularly around school and college funding
  • Liberal Democrats: The highest number of commitments that are rooted in evidence, but they still lack detailed plans on how these commitments will be funded and delivered
  • Green: Substantial commitments to additional school funding, but proposals for ending formal assessments and abolishing Ofsted are not supported by research evidence. This may lead to falling standards overall and widening attainment gaps
  • Reform: Education-related commitments are somewhat limited in nature. They do not address the challenges in the education system today in any substantial way

We turned to training providers, professional bodies, policy organisations and more to find out what they’re hoping to see from the incoming government.

What do you want to see from the next government?

“A more pragmatic approach to maths and English”
“Good literacy and numeracy cannot be underplayed, but the next government needs to take a more pragmatic approach to maths and English. This is not just in apprenticeships where it holds back achievement, but it also needs to reverse the damaging changes to the maths and English condition of funding as part of the 16-to-19 study programme requirements.

“In the AELP’s manifesto, we have called for a root-and-branch review of how English and maths are delivered and assessed throughout the education system. On apprenticeships specifically, we would like to see the need to achieve functional skills qualifications removed as an exit requirement. This would boost participation, progression opportunities and turbocharge apprenticeship programme outcomes.”

– Simon Ashworth, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Policy at the AELP


“Introduce multi-skill options for apprenticeships”
“A lot of the focus in the manifestos is on the levy, but I think apprenticeship standards and the design of the apprenticeship programmes themselves can be vastly improved. We published a paper last year called Transforming Skills, and one of the ideas was to introduce multi-skill options for apprenticeships.

“Currently, if you undertake an electrician apprenticeship, you'll learn everything about being an electrician but you don't cover plastering. I had a rewire done in my house last year, and I would've been quite unhappy if they'd left the house without patching up the walls. Are people coming out of apprenticeships actually occupationally ready? In some cases, maybe not. Can we introduce a multi-skill option where there are optional tag-on units for people to learn the skills they actually need in the workplace?”

– Michael Lehman, Head of Policy at educational charity NCFE, speaking in an FE Week webinar


“Change around functional skills”
“We would like to see a change around functional skills, and the requirements of holding maths and English certifications for certain levels of qualifications. We only run Level 5 apprenticeships, which means that all our learners must hold a Level 2 in English and maths in order to complete the programme – and we get a lot of pushback from learners on this. 

“One main (and understandable) frustration with this is that we have individuals that potentially hold degrees or higher qualifications, but unless they have evidence of Level 2 in English and maths, then they must find extra time to complete functional skills. As a training provider, we have fairly high pass/achievement rates for what we deliver, but functional skills still remains a barrier for some to complete the programme.”

– Mike Clarkson, Programme Coordinator at training provider Solace


“A cross-government set of ministers”
“I'd like to start with a cross-government set of ministers who understood what skills were needed in England. This should be linked to an industrial strategy, which is linked to an economic strategy, which is linked to a workforce strategy. 

“For the teacher on the ground, it would be fantastic to have some stability, so they could be confident that they were teaching what was needed by the country and nobody was going to criticise it. For learners, they would also know that whatever qualification or programme they were on, that was what the country needs.”

– Dr Sue Pember CBE, Director of Policy at professional body Holex, speaking in an FE Week webinar


“Increase employer investment in training”
“Whoever wins the election needs to put learning, skills and employment front and centre of their plans.

“To grow the economy and widen opportunity, the next government needs to invest in skills (reversing the £1 billion real-terms cut in England since 2010), increase employer investment in training (which has fallen 26% per employee since 2005), and widen employment support (given only one in 10 out-of-work disabled people get help to find work each year).” 

– Stephen Evans, Chief Executive at The Learning and Work Institute, in response to the general election announcement.


Get in touch and share your election asks

Do you have more thoughts on how the next government could improve apprenticeships and vocational training? We want to hear from you! 

Follow Bud Systems on LinkedIn and tag us in your post – we’ll add the best responses to the article.

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