The government claims it’s taken “decisive action” to improve the quality of apprenticeships, after a BBC documentary found that nearly £250 million of funding had gone to subcontractors that had never been inspected.
In a statement, skills minister John Hayes has promised that, from August 2012, all apprenticeships will last for a minimum of 12 months, in an attempt to “drive up quality”. This is an extension of an earlier plan, which would only have put the minimum length in place for those schemes undertaken by the under 19s.
“The majority of apprenticeships are the gold standard in vocational training,” Hayes said. “We must be relentless in our drive to ensure all apprenticeships are as good as the best, to identify and root out any instances of poor quality provision, and to raise the bar on standards.”
The announcement follows a BBC Panorama documentary, which revealed the scale of public money being spent on apprenticeship providers who had never been inspected by Ofsted.
The programme highlighted the case of one subcontractor, Forward Thinking Training Solutions, which delivered its painting and decorating apprenticeships in 16 weeks.
It also found that a training firm, JML Dolman, forged paper work to show apprenticeships as complete, despite the fact it did not employ an assessor at the time they were signed. In a statement to Panorama, the firm denied the claims.
In response to the documentary, Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “When there is significant investment and growth in a nationwide training scheme there will inevitably be a few sophisticated operators who try to play the system.
“If there are legitimate questions raised about the quality of any employer or training provider, then they need to be thoroughly investigated by the relevant government agencies.”