5. Foundation Apprenticeships
5.1. This section presents the findings relating to Question 4, which asked:
"Should Apprenticeship Levy funding be used to support the expansion of Foundation Apprenticeships? a) Yes b) No"
5.2. Almost all of the respondents (94%) addressed Question 4. Of these, just under two thirds (65%) either ticked "yes" or expressed clear support for the view that Apprenticeship Levy funding should be used to support the expansion of Foundation Apprenticeships ( FAs).
5.3. Just over a quarter of respondents (27%) either ticked "no" or expressed clear disagreement with the use of Levy funding for this purpose. The remainder of those who addressed the question (8%) did not express a clear preference, but made other comments.
5.4. By respondent type, support for this use of Levy funding was strongest among individuals (83%) and the NHS (82%). The majority of respondents in almost all other categories also expressed support, although views were more mixed among trades union respondents, where they were evenly split.
5.5. There was little difference in responses to this question by respondents' overall view of the growth ambition for MAs. 63% of those who stated that the Government's current commitment should be maintained, compared with 61% of those who believed it should be increased, expressed agreement with Question 4.
5.6. The full quantitative analysis relating to Question 4 is presented in tables A12 to A15 ( Annex 3).
5.7. Four fifths of those who responded to Question 4 (80%) made additional comments. There were three main themes overall:
- Benefits of, or reasons to use Levy funding to support the expansion of FAs.
- Concerns about using Levy funding to support the expansion of FAs.
- Suggestions about developments to FAs.
5.8. Many issues were raised within these themes, and these are summarised below.
Benefits of, or reasons to use Levy funding to support the expansion of FAs
5.9. Just under half of those who made additional comments suggested benefits of, or reasons for this. These related to the following broad areas:
- Meeting the needs of individuals.
- Meeting the needs of employers.
- Meeting the needs of specific sectors.
- Promoting equality and inclusion and meeting the needs of specific groups.
- Wider issues and the Scottish context.
Meeting the needs of individuals
5.10. The most common perceived benefit relating to the expansion of FAs was that this would help to meet the needs of individuals. While some respondents mentioned the general value of FAs to individuals, several mentioned specific benefits, including to:
- Help equip individuals for work and increase their employability.
- Increase relevant skills; help individuals to learn about business and industry, or specific sectors; and improve confidence and self-esteem.
- Increase opportunities available and provide a "first step" and pathway for progression to MAs.
- Assist with career choices or career planning and transition to employment.
5.11. Other perceived benefits to individuals of an expansion of FAs included that this could provide additional support to those who may otherwise struggle to cope with MAs or the world of work (for whom provision could be patchy) and provide a more suitable learning environment for those who may be disenfranchised by traditional pathways.
Meeting the needs of employers
5.12. A further common theme was that the expansion of FAs would help meet the needs of employers. An issue raised frequently was that this would help them engage with, recruit and retain young people. It was also suggested that it would increase the uptake of MAs and employment opportunities, and help address skills gaps and shortages.
5.13. Additional benefits to employers were seen to include that an expansion of FAs could help provide them with recruits with relevant skills and understanding, and enable them to develop individuals to meet their own needs. A few stated that FAs could bring financial benefits to employers ( e.g. improving their return on investment or saving money). A few cited specific demand for such provision.
Meeting the needs of specific sectors
5.14. Several respondents stated that using the Apprenticeship Levy to support an expansion of FAs could help address need and demand in specific sectors.
5.15. At a general level, one respondent mentioned that some sectors have a high number of jobs requiring few qualifications, which may be suitable for FAs. Others mentioned that some sectors could benefit from the early introduction of young people.
5.16. Some respondents identified particular sectors which they believed could benefit from expansion of FAs. Those mentioned most commonly were: health and social care; construction; energy; retail; land-based work; STEM careers; and finance (although others were also mentioned). One respondent suggested that an expansion in FAs could enable third sector training providers to become involved in delivering these.
Promoting equality and inclusion and meeting the needs of specific groups
5.17. Several respondents stated that the expansion of FAs could help promote equality and inclusion, address existing inequalities and improve workforce diversity.
5.18. A small number expressed the view that an expansion in FAs could help address inequalities and barriers for specific groups, providing them with skills, opportunities and experience ( e.g. in under-represented areas) and enabling their transition to work.
5.19. Groups highlighted included: women; disabled people (including people with learning disabilities); BME people; people in rural areas; looked after young people; and young carers. Some mentioned "non-academic" people, those working in "non-traditional" ways; or from disadvantaged or deprived backgrounds.
Wider issues and the Scottish context.
5.20. A further common theme was that an expansion of FAs could bring wider benefits, and several respondents stressed their general commitment to this type of provision, or mentioned the need for early intervention. It was also suggested that this would be consistent with, and assist in achieving the ambitions of the DYW policy.
5.21. Additional wider benefits included that an expansion of FAs could have a positive impact on the future needs of the Scottish workforce and on tackling youth unemployment. It was also suggested that this could raise the profile of vocational routes, and promote greater parity of esteem between vocational and academic routes.
5.22. A small number of respondents stated that the use of Levy funding to support the expansion of FAs could address some current funding problems.
Concerns about using Levy funding to support the expansion of FAs
5.23. A smaller proportion (around a third) of those who made additional comments identified concerns with using Levy funding to support the expansion of FAs. These were in three broad areas:
- Lack of demand for, or benefit from expansion.
- Issues with the use of funding.
- Wider negative impacts.
Lack of demand for, or benefit from expansion
5.24. Among the concerns expressed, the most common related to a lack of demand for, or benefit from the expansion of FAs.
5.25. Several respondents stated that FAs are not required by particular employers or sectors, or do not meet their needs. Some respondents suggested that there is a lack of demand for FAs, or that provision is already sufficient. A few stated that they (or their sector) already have relevant provision in place, and one expressed the view that the MA framework already offers varying levels, ensuring inclusion for all.
5.26. It was also suggested that FAs can be unpopular or challenging for some employers or sectors. Some respondents stated that employers may not be able to provide the level of support needed by the client group, or that there may be health and safety issues with work-based training for FAs. Concerns were also raised about the maturity level of the client group, and about a lack of structured career path from school to employment.
5.27. Several respondents mentioned perceived limitations with current FAs. Concerns included, for example: the quality of provision and assessment; limitations to the level, areas and topics covered; and access and equality issues.
5.28. Some respondents expressed the view that FAs are too early in their development for expansion. Comments included that there is a lack of evidence and evaluation of the effectiveness of FAs, and a lack of proof of their "added value". It was also suggested that it is not yet clear how well these may attract the potential client group.
Issues with the use of funding
5.29. Several respondents raised concerns about the use of funding. The most common issue raised was that this work would (or should) be carried out in schools as part of the curriculum, and should be funded from mainstream education funding. A few stated more generally that FAs should be funded in another way, and not through the Levy.
5.30. A few respondents stated that there is already funding available for the development and expansion of FAs and that current support is sufficient. It was also suggested that, in some sectors, there are other funding options available.
5.31. A further view, expressed by several respondents, was that Levy funding should be used for other purposes ( e.g. MAs, GLAs, in-work and wider workforce development). A few gave specific examples of particular uses ( e.g. a wider vocational programme; an alternative pathway to MAs; and careers information and advice).
5.32. A small number of respondents expressed concerns that expanding FAs would waste resources, or divert funding from other activities. A few stated that budgets are already under pressure, or that employers would not consider this to be financially beneficial (or may want to see a quicker return on investment).
Wider negative impacts
5.33. Several respondents identified potential wider negative impacts of using Levy funding to support the expansion of FAs.
5.34. A number, for example, expressed concern that this could reduce or diminish the perceived value or status of apprenticeships. Comments included that: the introduction of FAs for some occupations could undermine existing standards; and if those undertaking FAs were not employed, this would depart from a core principle of apprenticeships. It was also suggested that an FA was not a "full" apprenticeship.
5.35. Some respondents expressed concern that the expansion of FAs could have a negative impact on employer support for apprenticeships, or could reduce other training opportunities. One respondent stated that the design of FAs was not consistent with a skills pathway approach, and another that there could be conflict with other entry frameworks.
5.36. A small number of respondents stated that the wider development of FAs may have a negative impact on training providers ( e.g. with schools arranging work placements directly with employers; and difficulties for private training providers in getting involved in this provision). One respondent stated that FAs would change the existing model of SVQs for this age group.
Suggestions about developments to FAs
5.37. Just under half of those who made additional comments at Question 4 made suggestions about developments to these. The most common were about:
- The overall approach to FAs.
- Developments for specific sectors / subject areas.
- Developments for specific groups.
- Other suggested developments.
- Funding issues.
The overall approach to FAs
5.38. The largest number of suggestions about FAs related to the overall approach. The most common issue raised was that these should link to existing pathways and be integrated with school and college curricula, MAs and GLAs.
5.39. Another common suggestion was that FAs should meet employer demand, or fill specific skills gaps or hard to fill vacancies. Some respondents stated that there should be a joint working approach to the development of FAs, or that employers should be involved in this. A small number of respondents mentioned other participants they felt should be involved, including: training providers; regulatory bodies; and education / FE and HE providers.
5.40. The need for good quality, robust FAs, with quality assurance standards was also highlighted, as was the need for FAs to be flexible and accessible to all.
Developments for specific sectors / subject areas
5.41. While some respondents stated that FAs should be expanded to a range of sectors, or expanded to sectors with particular workforce needs, several suggested specific sectors and subject areas which they believed FAs should target or include.
5.42. A number of individual sectors were mentioned (by small numbers of respondents in each case). These reflected the sectors mentioned at 5.16 above, and other potential target sectors. A number of respondents mentioned the role of the third sector and other independent training providers in delivering FAs.
5.43. Among the subject or skills suggested for inclusion in FAs were: "life" and "soft" skills; confidence-building; "functional" skills; communication; timekeeping; and general "work-readiness". A few respondents suggested a focus on STEM-related or ICT skills.
Developments for specific groups
5.44. A further common theme was that there should be developments to FAs to address the needs of specific groups. While some respondents stated generally that FAs should be accessible to all, barrier-free and promote equality, others (a small number in each case) identified specific groups to focus on in developing FAs.
5.45. These reflected the groups mentioned at para 5.19 above, with a need to ensure provision to those who need additional support, and for under-represented and disadvantaged groups.
Other suggested developments
5.46. A range of suggestions were made about other developments to FAs.
5.47. Several respondents commented on the level for FAs. Suggestions included that they should be reviewed and widened to include, for example, SCQF levels 4, 5 and 7 (rather than 6) and to ensure that there are options which do not require formal academic results. A small number suggested that FAs should be targeted at young people in S4, or could be an alternative to the curriculum in senior years at school.
5.48. It was also suggested that lower level schemes should continue to be supported, and some respondents suggested that there should be work undertaken in schools ( e.g. with greater emphasis on pre-employment support, and pathways for direct entry to employment).
5.49. Some additional comments were made on the nature of FAs. It was suggested, for example, that: they should include non-traditional methods of work-based learning; those undertaking FAs should receive appropriate advice and support (including in the workplace); and health and safety requirements should be considered. One respondent suggested that employers should receive specialist preparation for FAs.
5.50. A few respondents suggested raising awareness of FAs ( e.g. among employers, schools and training providers, parents and young people). It was also suggested that this should include development of a clear definition of FAs, and guidance on criteria.
5.51. Several respondents suggested that FAs should be piloted and evaluated, with any expansion informed by the results of this, and by lessons learned from other relevant provision. A small number of comments were also made about timing for the expansion of FAs ( e.g. that this should take place beyond 2018; be in the longer term; or staggered).
5.52. Suggestions on funding issues were also common. These included the identification of specific costs relating to FAs for funding ( e.g. course provision; training provider and employer costs; piloting; and provision of existing programmes used by employers).
5.53. Comments were also made about funding arrangements for FAs, including that this should be flexible, straightforward and stable. A number of respondents suggested that funding for the expansion of FAs should not be at the expense of MAs, GLAs, or in-work developments, nor should it replace education funding or existing provision. A small number suggested that financial modelling should be carried out for FA provision.
5.54. Additional suggestions (by small numbers in each case) included having: an open tender process for FA contracts; ring-fenced funds; changes to allow colleges to draw down specific funding for FAs; and diversion of funds to the DYW regional groups.
5.55. A very small number of respondents made other comments. These related to the consultation question itself (and the need for further information); and respondents' potential involvement in future work.