After a turbulent few weeks in Westminster, clarity is emerging around the newly-appointed ministers. The Department for Education (DfE) has taken over responsibility for Higher and Further Education policy, as well as apprenticeship and wider skills policy;this was previously under the remit of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
Robert Halfon (pictured), MP for Harlow and former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party is now the Minister for Apprenticeships. His track record as a campaigner on issues such as petrol prices, as well as employing the first apprentice in Parliament, clearly indicates that the Government will continue to push the apprenticeship agenda forward.
As part of the recent Cabinet reshuffle under the new Prime Minister, priorities within the sector include "reforming the Higher Education sector to boost competition and continue to improve the quality of education that students receive." As well as committing to increasing the number of apprenticeships through a "fundamental change in the UK's approach to the workplace", Number 10 commented: “Bringing these responsibilities together will mean that the Government can take a comprehensive, end-to-end view of skills and education, supporting people from early years through to postgraduate study and work.”
Committee chair Neil Carmichael MP said: “It’s really important for the future productivity of our economy that education and skills are joined up in an effective way and I’m delighted that the Prime Minister has taken the opportunity to reflect this in reshaping the machinery of Government.”
The BSA has recently formed an Apprenticeships Working Group, which held its inaugural meeting on 27 July. The prominent takeaway sentiment is that there is a great deal of enthusiasm throughout the financial services sector regarding the value of apprentices - both as new starters and as a means of developing those already in the business.
We hope that the Government will provide clarity very soon about the final arrangements that will apply when the Apprenticeship Levy kicks in in April 2017. The development of new programmes is likely to hit the buffers until we know which providers will be approved under the levy arrangements.
The BSA will also be looking for information from the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly and Stormont on the approach to the use of the Apprenticeship Levy in relation to employees based in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Other news on talent development in the sector: We are pleased to say that we will be welcoming a second cohort of students on the MSc Leadership and Management programme in October. Developed by the BSA and experts at Loughborough University, School of Business & Economics, the course is geared specifically for those who work in a customer-owned or mutual financial services firm.