Earlier this week, skills minister, Nick Boles spoke frankly about the further education college model, and whether or not it has a future. Addressing delegates at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), an annual conference in London, he warned of “difficult choices” that will have to be made about the “less productive bits” of the system. The minister pointed out that the budget for post-16 education wasn’t set in stone, and admitted more investment is needed if the government is to hit their target of creating 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020 – news that we covered last week.
While further education at college and apprenticeships do differ in key areas, they are also intrinsically linked. Referring specifically to college education, Mr Boles said:
“We also need to look at the range of qualifications offered to young people; are they properly defined? We need to look at the range of institutions that exist within further, technical and professional education and ask ourselves whether the general further education college that we have had for so long, many of which do a very fine job in many areas, whether that general model is one that we want for the future when resources are constrained.”
These comments are particularly interesting as they highlight one of the potential advantages of an apprenticeship, over a more traditional college education. Firstly, an apprenticeship is essentially a job. There is mandatory training involved, but rather than an apprentice spending the majority of their time in classroom, they are performing a job role from the moment they start. They continue to provide excellent value for money, which is critical as funding resources in other areas of further education have their resources squeezed.
The conference was followed by an incredibly detailed research paper by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). In the paper, the value of further education was analysed, with apprenticeships proving they had the highest value of all publicly funded qualifications. The figures break down as such: for every pound invested in a Level 2 apprenticeship, £26 is returned. For Level 3 it’s slighter higher at £28 returned for every pound invested. It seems that as the future of college education becomes more and more uncertain, apprenticeship programmes are better-established as the more economically viable route to full-time employment and on-the-job training.
The full “Measuring the Net Present Value of Further Education in England” can be read here. For more information about taking on apprentices, as well as the value for your business, our dedicated team can be contacted on 01772 440310.