Lady Cobham CBE, Director General of The 5% Club, responds to the Augur Review of post 18 Education

“The 5% Club warmly welcomes the recommendations of the panel to improve further education and skills in the UK to meet impending employment needs and build a competitive economy. Almost every sector of the economy, as represented by The 5% Club, is concerned about meeting the looming skills gap to continue to be productive. At the moment, the quality of training is too often not available to meet the needs of British business.

“Our members, including employers large and small from a wide range of sectors, are committed to investing in ‘earn and learn’ skills training including apprenticeships and sponsored student schemes for their employees. But last year, almost half of them said they were unable to obtain suitable, high quality training for their employees where they needed it. So the review’s recommendation to invest in better, more accessible further education, in areas where the workforce needs it, is vital.

“We welcome the review’s recommendations for the Government to increase the number of quality apprenticeships, particularly in areas of employment where they are desperately needed. With non university level apprenticeship numbers remaining low and stagnant, it is vital to turn this around quickly and ensure that sufficient new and existing employees are being trained in the skills needed for vibrant construction, engineering and other key business sectors to support the UK Industrial Strategy. We welcome the proposals for funding for new apprentices who have not received other sources of higher or further education support before and to restore full funding for employees over 24 to undertake full level 2 qualifications.

“We also welcome the call to ensure an effective distribution of appropriate training within a reasonable travel-to-learn radius, to skill people up where they are needed. Our members struggle to find suitable training in many parts of the country, including rural areas. The Government needs to work with industry and the further education network to develop skills fit for 21st century employers, where business, communities and young people need it.

“The Government must ensure that the apprenticeship figures represent a true picture of real, quality apprenticeship development in this country, if it is to support UK PLC in addressing the skills gap. We support Augur review’s recommendations for the Government to more accurately account for the number of true apprenticeship programmes throughout the country and for all providers to meet Ofsted standards of quality.

“We also whole-heartedly welcome the recommendation to improve careers advice in colleges and schools. Earn and learn training needs to be presented as the valuable and worthwhile route into employment which it is, so that it is held in as much esteem as a university education.”

“As the review recognises, further education is a key driver of social mobility. Investment in quality training and opportunities is vital in providing a diverse, effective workforce fit for the future.”