A Skills Based Recovery For London – The Future Of Apprenticeships

The London Progression Collaboration (LPC) is an innovative pilot project being delivered by the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Greater London Authority, with the financial support of J.P. Morgan.

The core LCP mission is to help more than 1,000 Londoners progress into work, and from low-paid, low-skilled work into better-quality, higher paying jobs. To deliver on this core mission LCP supports employers to create new apprenticeships, which can meet their and their sector’s skills needs.

On Wednesday 9th September the LCP held a meeting to discuss the topic ‘A Skills Based Recovery for London.’ Acting as chair was Anna Ambrose, Director of the London Progression Collaboration, and on the panel:

  • Gillian Keegan MP, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills
  • Shenaaz Chenia, CEO of YouthBuild Ventures UK
  • Mark Hilton, Executive Director of Policy at London First
  • Matthew Jaffa, Senior External Affairs Manager (London) at the Federation of Small Businesses
  • Jordan Cummins, Senior Associate Director & Head of London Policy at the Confederation of British Industry
  • Harry Quilter-Pinner, Associate Director at the Institute for Public Policy Research

As industry leaders in providing accredited quality qualifications and apprenticeships ranging from Level 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 for the fashion and textile industry CEO of Fashion-Enter Jenny Holloway joined the event to hear panel’s views and ideas going forward.

Gillian Keegan MP, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills explained that: The LPC is a fantastic initiative, which is going to have a great impact and unlock more apprenticeships.

“Before Covid-19”, she continued, “we were in a period of very high employment characterised by skills shortages, for example in construction, digital and teaching. We know there are job losses to come and there is uncertainty about the recovery – it is likely to vary by sector and place. But those skills gaps will still exist, as nothing’s happened in the interim to address them – and they’re not areas which have been permanently disrupted.”

She also talked about how young people’s employment prospects will be disproportionately damaged having seen personal experience of this from time in Madrid during and after the last recession, of confidence draining from a generation. We need to avoid the scarring impact on this generation; we must invest in supporting young people.

Gillian also discussed the recent government policy announcement to support young people with the Kickstart scheme, tripling traineeships and work-based academies – both potential routes to apprenticeships. Also new offer for 18-19 year old school leavers to study high-value level 2 courses (relating to skills gaps), & improvements to careers advice & guidance. Along with the positive benefits that apprentices bring for employers with businesses of all sizes.

Various measures have been introduced to improve access to apprenticeships: apprenticeship incentives, increasing number of funding reservations SMEs can make from 3 to 10, and extending transition to online Apprenticeship Service for non-levy payers. The key to this is move to an employer-led system, with future-facing T Levels building on employer-led apprenticeships and raising prestige of technical education. Investment in institutions to deliver these is required too e.g. Institutes of Technology.

Harry Quilter-Pinner, Associate Director at the Institute for Public Policy Research added that: This recession is very different to others we have faced, and we don’t know how the economy will recover. But the challenge is not just cyclical, relating to aggregate demand, but structural & requiring long term shifts in skills and employment. We welcome the Kickstart scheme and other government initiatives, but also need to think what replaces furlough. We need to ensure these facilitate the transition from low demand to high demand sectors, and fill skills gaps. There is a specific role for the Further Education & skills system – after a decade of cuts, we need to see more funding for FE and adult skills in the next spending review.

This quick Q&A with the panel reveals current thinking:

What support is needed for small businesses to make apprenticeships work?

  • MJ: Upfront grants are key, and creating systems for apprentices to move between employers would be helpful too
  • AA: We’re seeing some London boroughs explore taking on e.g. digital marketing apprentices to be shared between local SMEs
  • MH: It would help if larger corporates were able to bulk-transfer their unspent apprenticeship levy to intermediary organisations
  • SC: Allowing smaller employers to have more flexibility around what the levy can be used on would be helpful

What can we do to make apprenticeships work for those that are disadvantaged in the labour market?

  • SC: We need to invest in pre-apprenticeship training which embeds digital and ‘soft’ skills. Success depends on a deeper understanding of work readiness. Employer engagement in this work is key, and forging links between the young person and employer before the young person goes into the workplace.
  • JC: A new initiative launched by CBI and the Mayor of London is focusing on helping young people to access tech (hardware, data access and connectivity a challenge)

T-Levels, employer led apprenticeships, clearer and easier access to employ apprentices at a range of levels and core government investment in employment initiatives and training facilities were some of the main topics that the panel are keen to push forward.

Do you want to find out more about the fashion and textiles apprenticeships that we offer at the Fashion Technology Academy please tap here.