Exeter College, one of England’s best-performing FE institutions, has drafted in its local MP, Ben Bradshaw, to support its fight against the controversial decision before Christmas not to award it a contract to train apprentices working for non-levy paying employers, reports FE Week. The college, rated ‘outstanding’, enjoys a well above average 81% achievement rate in apprentice provision. Bradshaw says the decision has been “inexplicable” and, if not changed, will seriously affect apprenticeship provision in the Exeter region.
At last week’s National Apprenticeship Awards, held in London, the RAF picked up the 'macro employer of the year' award. The ‘best large employer’ title went to Dale Power Solutions, Superior Seals took the ‘medium employer’ award, and Beauty Oasis Spa was crowned ‘small employer of the year’. Lander Automotive and Yorkshire Building Society, respectively, won the SME and large employer ‘newcomer’ awards.
A report from the thinktank IIPR North is calling for skills budgets to be passed to local enterprise partnership (LEP) business leaders to help narrow the 5% gap in NVQ level 4 pass rates between the north-east and the rest of England. FE News says the thinktank wants LEPs to do more to support SMEs in target their apprentice levy funds and so help fill local skills gaps to reflect the aims of the government’s industrial strategy.
A national ‘Year of Engineering’ has been launched by skills minister Anne Milton to raise the profile of engineering in the UK and encourage more people to make careers in the sector, reports FE Week. Milton stressed the need to promote STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and maths), which is a particular focus of the government’s industrial strategy. Activities will include ‘engineering experiences’ across the country for young people, parents and teachers, plus a roadshow designed to attract more women to engineering, particularly those from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Saudi Arabia is offering a further seven contracts to international FE training providers to operate in custom-built Saudi colleges, reports TES. The expansion is part of the country’s national scheme to increase numbers of school leavers entering vocational training from 100,000 (in 2016) to 950,000 (by 2020). The country has already issued 31 college contracts, including several won by UK college consortia - Oxford Partnership, Hertfordshire London Colleges and the Burton and Highbury Group.
Fears that Ofsted lacks resources to properly regulate and inspect a significantly expanded number of new apprenticeship training providers have been raised before the Commons education select committee, according to FE Week. IPPR thinktank member Joe Dromey told the committee the gap was widening between Ofsted’s capacity and expanding provision. He said government emphasis on greater apprenticeship numbers risked undermining quality.