Lady Cobham CBE, Director General of The 5% Club, responds to the Public Accounts Committee’s apprenticeship report

“The Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) report highlights that the government will not meet its target of 3 million apprenticeship starts by March 2020, and that the standard of some apprenticeship training is below par, which is disappointing. Representing more than 375 UK businesses, committed to offering ‘earn and learn’ training opportunities, The 5% Club wants to see more young people starting and completing good quality apprenticeship training. Today’s report supports our members’ view that the Apprenticeship Levy is not yet delivering on its promises.


The 5% Club wants more employers to embrace apprenticeships but this can only happen if the quality of apprenticeship training is up to standard. One of the key issues the PAC report highlights is the poor quality of training providers and the lack of end point assessors. Such fundamental problems undermine the value of apprenticeships, as well as the support businesses give to apprenticeships. Crucially, it is also unfair on the very people for whom apprenticeships should provide the skills our economy so badly needs – young people.


The PAC finding that ‘opportunities for people from disadvantaged communities has fallen and that take-up from under-represented groups has been too low’ is also concerning. In 2018, The 5% Club’s own report Playing to Our Strengths: Unlocking Social Mobility for Economic Good highlighted the correlation between improving social mobility and education, and addressing the UK’s skills gap. It is now essential that more is done to create opportunities for those who are at a disadvantage.


We urge the Department for Education to take on board today’s PAC report; to evaluate its interventions in the case of failing training providers and; to set and meet more stretching diversity targets covering BAME apprentices and those with a learning difficulty, disability or health problems. Only then can the UK deliver the huge number of apprenticeships which young people and the UK economy desperately need.”