Degree apprenticeships white paper says mandated qualifications should stay

The white paper, which includes perspectives from the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), the University Vocational Awards Council, former business secretary and leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable and university-based apprenticeship managers, was written to inform the IfATE’s consultation and review of integration and standards in degree apprenticeships.

The white paper found that the function of mandated degrees went far beyond shaping an apprenticeship’s off-the-job training. While much work is needed to ensure degree apprenticeships deliver widening participation, the evidence shows degree qualifications enhance productivity, increase social mobility, and offer enhanced and transferrable skills to graduates and employers.

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The Challenge of College Enrolment

Colleges are experiencing higher rates of enrolment than ever before and as we approach winter, it’s still unclear whether we’ll be forced to re-introduce measures to control the spread of coronavirus. This means enrolment processes may need to be conducted remotely and thanks to digital solutions, like Aptem Enrol, this is easily done.

Our latest article looks at the challenge of college enrolment and how colleges, students, and employers nationwide benefit from a single, remote enrolment solution.

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Aptem Dashboards – Insights to track and manage your programmes.

Access to data that is visualised in an easy to consume way is critical to understanding insights. That’s why Aptem has built-in dashboards allowing users at all levels across an organisation to effectively learn, track and manage their programmes.

Aptem’s single-page dashboards provide an instant snapshot of key analytics and reports of a users programme.

Learners, Tutors, Participants, and Work Coaches, are provided with an interactive page containing analysed data funnelled through reports, charts, and graphs, all tailored to meet the individual user’s needs.

The four dashboards – Tutor Dashboard, Learner Dashboard, Work Coach Dashboard, and Participant Dashboard are reviewed in detail below:

Tutor Dashboard
Summary: Gives an effective, single-page overview of the learner’s progress providing the tutor with the tools to keep on top of their learners.
  • Title – The first card shows the name of the learner, their employer, manager, and mentor. You have the option to view the learner’s profile from here.  
  • Learning Plan Activities – Breakdown of activities highlighting – completed, submitted, remaining, and target. These help to ascertain whether a learner needs prompting. 
  • Upcoming Review -Highlights upcoming reviews which can be navigated by clicking start.
  • Timeline – Indicator shows the learner’s current stage in the programme, along with milestone dates. 
  • Progress – If a learner is enrolled on multiple programmes, you can track the progress of each programme with flags indicating areas for concern. 
  • Of-the-job-Hours – Shows a breakdown of OTJ hours with a forecast displaying the sum of completed OTJ hours and all future planned OTJ hours. 
  • RAG status -To quickly identify if a learner is on track (Green), at risk of falling behind (Amber), or if they have fallen behind (Red).
  • Require Attention – Highlights areas a tutor needs to focus on, with the ability to click the text buttons to navigate to the relevant pages.
  • Skills Radar Report – If the organisation uses a Skills Radar, you can see a summary of the learner’s Skills Radar scores,  illustrating the learner’s skills and competencies, and progression over time through a scoring system numbered 0-10. 
Learner Dashboard  
Summary: Gives a single, reliable overview of the entire programme that helps the learner take ownership for keeping their learning on track.
  • Title – The first card shows the name of the main programme. If the learner has a tutor, a mentor, or an employer contact, their names and contact information is listed. If the tutor is listed on this card, you will see the option to send them a message.
  • Learning Plan Activities – Breakdown of activities highlighting – completed, submitted, remaining and target. In the visual shown here, the score 12 out of 24 indicates that the learner has completed 12 out of 24 learning plan activities.
  • Upcoming Review – Lists the upcoming reviews, Learners can navigate to a review by clicking ‘Start’.
  • Timeline – This card has a visual indicator showing the learner their current stage in the programme, along with other milestone dates.
  • Progress – If a learner is enrolled on multiple programmes, they can track the progress of each programme with flags indicating areas for concern. 
  • Off-the-job Hours –Shows the planned and completed OTJ hours for each month. The forecast hours are the sum of completed OTJ hours and all future planned OTJ hours.
  • RAG Status – Learners can identify whether they are on track, at risk of falling behind, and if they have fallen behind.
  • Requires Attention –This section shows the various items requiring the learner’s attention including overdue activities and tasks, feedback received, unread messages, signatures required etc. In this section, the text buttons allow learners to navigate to the relevant pages.
  • Skills Radar Report –  If the organisation uses a Skills Radar, learners can see a summary of their Skills Radar scores,  illustrating their skills and competencies, and progression over time through a scoring system numbered 0-10. 
Work Coach Dashboard 
Summary: Gives work coaches instant access to key analytics to support clients with their re-employment programmes. 
  • Overview – Provides work coaches with instant access to key analytics to support clients with their re-employment programmes. 
  • Title – Shows the participant’s/job seeker’s name, their main programmes, and access to their profile. 
  • Action Plan Activities – Breakdown of activities highlighting – completed, submitted, remaining and target. Activities include creating a CV and undertaking a mock interview.
  • Upcoming Review – Lists the upcoming reviews, participants can navigate to a review by clicking ‘start’.
  • Timeline – Indicator shows the participant’s current stage in the programme, along with milestone dates. 
  • Job Finder Activity – Shows a summary of the number of jobs viewed and jobs applied by the participant. Work Coaches can see this in two views – current week and all-time. 
  • The Resource Centre – Usage figures indicate the interaction with available resources, with percentages indicating an increase or decrease in assets viewed in a 7-day period.
  • Requires Attention – This section details the required areas to focus on. Activities and tasks can be prescribed by the employability provider. Open trackers include open cases where something could require fixing.
  • Skills Radar Report – Measures soft skills for employability. This can be based upon Aptem criteria or integration from Workstar.
Participant Dashboard 
Summary: Enables participants/jobseekers to keep track of their programme progress using tools such as the Job Finder Activity, Action Plan Activities, and the Skills Radar Report.  
  • Title – The first card has the name of the main programme and the name of the participant/jobseeker. Participants can see their Work Coach’s profile and also message them here. 
  • Action Plan activities – Breakdown of action activities, highlighted by completed, submitted, remaining and target. In the visual shown here, the score 12 out of 24 indicates that you have completed 12 out of 24 action plan activities.
  • Upcoming Review – Lists the upcoming reviews, participants can navigate to a review by clicking ‘start’. 
  • Timeline – Visual indicator showing participant’s current stage in the programme, along with other milestone dates.
  • Job Finder Activity – Participant’s summary of the number of jobs viewed and jobs applied. This can be viewed by current week and all-time. 
  • Jobs posted today – Shows the number of new jobs posted that matches the participant’s profile. 
  • Resource Centre Usage – Shows participant’s activity; assets opened and time spent on the resource centre. The panel also shows a percentage increase or decrease on both those parameters as viewed over a 7-day period.
  •  RAG Status – If the participant’s organisation uses RAG status, their RAG status is available to view on this card.
  • Requires Attention – This section shows the various items requiring your attention – overdue activities and tasks, unread messages, signatures required etc. In this section, you can click the text buttons on the card to navigate to the relevant pages.
  • Skills Radar Report – If the participant’s organisation uses Skills Radar, you can see a summary of your participant’s Skills Radar scores on this card.

Aptem Product Feature: Customisation – the ability to change the onboarding experience per programme.

Programme flexibility is essential in ensuring learners’ individual needs are met. That’s why Aptem has in-built customisation available, which gives you the ability to customise the onboarding and learner experience per programme.

To ensure that you can deliver the best possible learner experience, Aptem has simplified the process of creating customisable onboarding processes, allowing you to create changes that best suit each programme at the click of a button.

Learner experience doesn’t start with learning delivery; the entire learner journey should consist of considered interactions that keep the learner engagement throughout the entire process. The first of these interactions, with you as a provider, is the enrolment experience. 

Aptem allows you to design each aspect of the enrolment experience, from beginning to end. The first interaction learners have with the system should be clear and succinct, and Aptem allows you to present an initial page that is not overloaded with information, is manageable and most importantly does not force a learner into form-filling before they’ve had a chance to understand who you are as an organisation and what you provide. This helps to prevent learner disengagement and ensures your first interaction with the learner is informative and positive.


Data is an essential aspect of programme building and so form-filling will form a significant part of learner onboarding. However, it can be done in a way that encourages participation and reduces the amount of time learners need to spend on what can sometimes be a fairly arduous task. Aptem allows you to customise forms easily so they are grouped into sections and have further relevant questions revealed using case logic. This reduces the need for learners to use the ‘not applicable’ option, making the process more streamlined and accessible. We suggest that forms are used sparingly and are customised to capture only the datapoints you need and keep forms streamlined. Additionally, don’t end the onboarding experience with a form, but keep them in the middle of the onboarding journey.

Skills and assessment

During onboarding, there is often a need to assess the starting knowledge of a learner to understand what level of apprenticeship they may need, or to understand eligibility. This is commonly done using a skill scan graded against the Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours from the Standard. Often these skill scans are not accessible due to the language or grading system used. This can appear to be arbitrary to a new learner who may not have been exposed to this type of grading system before. It’s important that when creating an assessment of skills you customise it to ensure it is relatable to your target learners. At this stage of onboarding we suggest you use questions within the self-assessment, utilising the Skills Scan technology to find out more about the learner and their job role, and then complete the full KSB assessment at a later stage.

Similarly, many onboarding programmes require an initial assessment, which may be a functional skills assessment or a Cognassist assessment. Often learners are presented with a link to the assessment with no additional information about it or why they need to complete it. It’s important to customise the initial assessment experience to maintain learner engagement. One way this can be done in Aptem is to edit the page so it shows an overview of what the assessment is, what it entails, an estimated completion time, the reason it’s important and the information that you, the provider will gain from the learner completing the assessment. This helps the learner to feel part of the on-boarding process which increases participation rates, morale and engagement.

Onboarding is often your first interaction with a learner and is the first opportunity to provide a positive learner experience. Customisation can help you curate an experience that is engaging, interactive and ensures that the learner journey is collaborative and successful.




Data Masterclass output – Moving away from being Data Rich Insight Poor

Mark Abrahams, Head of Research at Aptem, joined Kerry Boffey from the Fellowship of Inspection Nominees (FIN) to host a Data masterclass for 23 organisations. The focus of the session was how to move away from being a ‘Data Rich Insight Poor’ (DRIP). Most of the participants were relying on Excel to process, analyse and present data, with some moving towards Tableau or PowerBI. The merits of these and other analytics tools were discussed.

Organisations worked through using data to support their Covid story, identifying the types of data they needed to support their statements for regulatory bodies like Ofsted. While most organisations are easily able to articulate what actions they have taken, data provides evidence of the impact of the action taken.

A core focus of the session was the learner journey and the importance of building a story around the data that is collected. Mark shared a diagram that walked organisations through the data points that are captured along the route and asked “what’s missing?” Together, organisations discussed the business questions they need to ask. The importance of triangulation was presented to ensure claims are evidenced using robust, accurate data.

Operational challenges were worked through across a range of perspectives including learners, tutors, quality and compliance and finance. Solutions using data to identify and solve organisational pain points such as identifying learners at risk, marking behaviours of tutors, patterns of tutor behaviour – both positive and negative – and past, current and future performance, were presented and worked through.

Two data exercises were undertaken by participants to test their learnings on dummy data. A discussion followed about the importance of data visualisation and which tools to use for data analysis and presentation. Tips were given on how to present data in a consumable format, which metrics were important, and how to automate to reduce manual effort and errors. The session ended with the value of benchmarking data, and the importance of using freely available tools such as the Aptem Intelligence Dashboard, to identify growth areas, opportunities and threats at an organisational level.

Feedback from this masterclass was extremely positive:

· “The training was comprehensive and clear. Detailed slides to continue to develop as an organisation from the training” Real Skills Training Ltd.

· “Very informative, firm, and good fun – if stats can ever be that!” Professor Christine White, De Montfort University.

· “Short but packed with information, interactive, networked with others. Useful with lots of take-away thoughts” Jenny Scrivens, Achieve Training.

Aptem, in partnership with FIN, runs a range of thought-leadership masterclasses throughout the year. These masterclasses are available to all Aptem customers at a discounted rate. Customers are contacted in advance of these sessions via email.

Employability and Skills: Plan for Jobs

The UK government has introduced an array of initiatives around employability and skills. Over the past year, and  as a result of the pandemic, it produced its Plan for Jobs, followed swiftly by the Skills for Jobs white paper, which  brings together long-term policy objectives with more localised and targeted support to manage the current crisis. 

The speed of policy change can be hard to navigate, so we have put together an ‘at a glance’ guide to the keynote policies.

Plan for Jobs


Launched in October 2020, JETS (Job Entry Targeted Support) is aimed at helping individuals who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.                                                                                                                                                                         

Key features are:

 Provides light employability support that includes things like transferable skills analysis, CV writing, job search, interview skills, self-efficacy and confidence-building in the post-pandemic environment. Participants will receive 182 days of continuous support.

 For participants of working age who are receiving benefits and motivated to find work.

Participants must be of working age, in receipt of universal credit or new style JSA, have been unemployed for 13 weeks or more, have been receiving benefits for 13 weeks or more and are not on any other DWP scheme.

Participants will have travel costs covered to any WHP JETS related appointments and childcare costs if it poses as a barrier to the participant entering employment within the first month of attendance.

Backed by £238 million investment from the government and delivered in partnership with the Shaw Trust.


Officially opened to applications in September 2020, Kickstart is an employability scheme that provides 6-month placements of 25 hours per week for 16-24-year-olds in receipt of Universal Credit. 

Key details are:

It provides funding for employers to offer work placements, and it covers 100% of the National Minimum Wage for the period of the placement, associated employer National Insurance and pension contributions, and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions. Employers can top up this wage.

Employers will also receive £1500 to help pay for training, uniforms and other set up costs.

Backed by £2 billion of public funding.

Employers can either apply directly or through a Kickstart Gateway (a group of employers) already working with the Kickstart Scheme.

Young people will be recruited through Jobcentre Plus.

Participants will be paid the national minimum wage or the national living wage depending on their age.

Employers can spread the start date of the job placements up until the end of December 2021.

Initially open until December 2021.


Launched in November 2020, Restart is a £2.9 billion scheme managed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that provides up to 12 months of tailored support for people who have been out of work for at least 12 months and may need additional support. 

Key features are:

The scheme will last for three years and will be delivered by providers (initially Tier 1 providers) through the Commercial Agreement for Employment and Health Related Services framework (CAEHRS).

For participants in receipt of Universal Credit and have been out of work for 12 months

Referrals will be made through work coaches.

The scheme is expected to benefit around one million individuals, who will get personalised support depending on identified need.

It will be delivered on a payment by results basis, incentivising providers to prioritise outcomes.

The DWP has awarded contracts and the scheme will go live in Summer 2021.

  Apprenticeship upgrade – The Plan for Jobs announced new support for apprenticeships. 

These are:

£3000 employer payment for each new apprentice they take on between 1st April and 30th September 2021.

This funding is in addition to existing payments for 16-18-year-olds, people with  disabilities or young people leaving care.

It is possible to progress from Kickstart to an apprenticeship.

The employer needs to pay the National Minimum Wage (or more) and possible 5% of training and assessment costs depending on the size of the business.

T Levels  

T Levels are the skills equivalent of three A Levels, and they offer a mix of classroom learning and an industry placement of around 45 days. Three T Levels are currently available at selected schools, colleges and other providers in England. A further seven will be available in 2022-3.

Learners can progress from T Levels to employment, an apprenticeship or higher education.

In the Plan for Jobs, financial incentives of up to £750 are available for providers in selected regions for the 2020 to 2021 academic year

The Role of Apprenticeships in Lifelong Learning

In a constantly shifting employment landscape, lifelong learning is essential. Not just to fill emerging job roles, but to ensure long and fulfilling careers. Apprenticeships offer an effective model to encourage and support lifelong learning.

Facilitating lifelong learning

Futurist Alvin Toffler, celebrated author of Future Shock, once said: “The illiterate of the future are not those who can’t read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

To thrive in today’s uncertain world we all need to be committed to learning, unlearning and relearning. To prepare for success, it’s important to develop a sense of self-direction, metacognitive awareness and a positive attitude towards lifelong learning. Certain characteristics of the apprenticeship model facilitate the development of these attributes.

Metacognitive awareness is being aware of how you think and learn. It enables learners to be more mindful of what and how they are learning, and how the same knowledge or approach may be applied in other situations. Self-direction is facilitated by recognising an end goal that can provide both motivation and a sense of responsibility to propel oneself towards it. Giving learners a level of autonomy and responsibility over their progress helps to develop these faculties.

As the aim of an apprenticeship is to facilitate movement into a permanent job role, motivation is intrinsically built into the model. Earning while you learn is another motivator, giving apprentices the satisfaction that comes from being rewarded from working hard, and seeing their learning being rewarded by progressing into a higher-paid position at the end of their apprenticeship. And having to manage learning alongside working gives apprentices a degree of autonomy and responsibility for their own success.

Apprenticeships are expansive and develop the whole person, not just job-specific skills. Apprentices are taken on a journey from being a novice to becoming an expert, as well as gaining a sense of curiosity, discovery and self-improvement – all of which engender a positive disposition towards lifelong learning.

Adult apprenticeships: not just for young people

Contrary to popular perception, there is no upper age limit for undertaking an apprenticeship. Anyone over the age of 16 and not in full-time education is eligible to become an apprentice.

There is a historic association of apprenticeships with young people of school-leaving age. However, there is plenty of evidence to show that this model can also be beneficial for adults. Apprenticeships could be revisited over the course of a career as a way to transition jobs, or to support unemployed people back into work.

Recognising this, Barclays has established a Lifelong Learning Apprenticeship to “help adults seeking employment after a period out of work and to create a pipeline of older recruits to build a workforce demographic that is diverse and reflects the make-up of Barclays’ customer base.” The programme targets anyone over the age of 24 who has been out of work for 12 months or more, and requires no prior experience in banking. After a three-week pre-employment course, successful candidates go on to complete a 12- to 18-month apprenticeship delivering financial services in-branch or over the phone. From there, apprentices are able to gain banking qualifications through the Chartered Banker Institute and progress to more senior roles.

The programme has been running since 2015, testament to its success as a model to support adults, particularly the longer-term unemployed, back into employment.

The Lifetime Skills Guarantee

The Lifetime Skills Guarantee was launched by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in September 2020 and is an attempt to provide adults with skills that are valued by employers and the chance to study flexibly, in a time and place that suits them. The Prime Minister’s promised reforms include a commitment to increasing apprenticeship opportunities, making the apprenticeship structure more flexible, and increasing funding for SMEs taking on apprentices.

Commenting on the new Guarantee, Alan Hiddleston, Director of Corporate Learning at D2L, said: “The past year has proven that lifelong learning is vital, and workers need to be better equipped with the skills for tomorrow. Looking ahead, our economy will require real change – a change of attitudes and indeed, culture. The way in which we value, deliver and measure learning will also need to shift, with increased collaboration between education institutions and corporate learning.”

Sarah Kirby, Group Head of Organisation Design & HR Strategy at Zurich Insurance Company Ltd, commented that this goes some way to solving a key challenge with the Apprenticeship Levy: “The main hurdle with the Levy in the UK is that the criteria are too narrow and onerous, which addresses only a skills gap in one’s current role. In the context of the Future of Work, we should be thinking beyond school leavers and considering people at all stages of their careers.”

Apprenticeships represent collaboration between formal learning providers and businesses. Unlike other forms of learning, an apprentice is working towards guaranteed paid work. They are also being paid throughout the learning process. This makes apprenticeships the most sensible route to support people to change careers or move out of unemployment, two particular challenges facing the country as we navigate both coronavirus and the fourth industrial revolution.

What’s more, five years after completion, the average Higher Technical Apprentice earns more than the average graduate. This is one of the motivations for the government’s move to facilitating lifelong learning: apprenticeships offer opportunities that are obscured by the false dichotomy in public imagination between the idea of “practical” versus “academic” education.

Apprenticeships and the fourth industrial revolution

Traditional education cannot adapt fast enough to equip students with the knowledge, skills and experience they need to operate newly emerging technologies and fulfil emerging business needs – but apprenticeships can.

Reskilling through apprenticeships is a way to fill the skills gaps that will occur in the near and longer-term future, including those that we may not yet have predicted, or are not yet capable of preparing for.

We know that the jobs landscape will continue to change as technology advances. The apprenticeship model offers the perfect tool to facilitate collaboration between employers and learning providers to ensure that these gaps continue to be addressed. What’s more, apprenticeships can also ensure that workers of all ages and at all stages in their careers have the opportunity to transition into emerging fields of work, without taking on the huge risk and financial burden of retraining at a university.

In this way, apprenticeships support lifelong learning while offering a solution to solve both the skills gaps and unemployment.

Employability and skills: Skills for Jobs

The UK government has introduced an array of initiatives around employability and skills. Over the past year, and as a result of the pandemic, it produced its Plan for Jobs, followed swiftly by the Skills for Jobs white paper, which brings together long-term policy objectives with more localised and targeted support to manage the current crisis. 

The speed of policy change can be hard to navigate, so we have put together an ‘at a glance’ guide to the keynote policies.

Skills for Jobs

Skills for Jobs is a white paper, meaning that the measures are draft policies in preparation for legislation. That means the detail is yet to come. However, it puts employers at the centre of technical skills delivery. 

Here are the core areas the report covers: 

  Lifelong Loan Entitlement 

•  Intended to echo provision of loans for degrees 

• Equivalent of four years, post-18 education. 

• Flexible, and available for a variety of skills training options.


• Support more people into apprenticeships. 

• Make them work in more sectors and allow levy-payers to transfer funds. 

• Address fall in apprenticeships among non-levy payers. 

• 2021-2 £2.5 billion to support apprenticeships. 

• Flexible on the job training across multiple employers in a sector. 

• Front loading training, accrediting of prior learning and experience, better routes of progression from traineeships and T levels to apprenticeships. 

 • Identify and prioritise most successful and necessary apprenticeships.


Plans to link to apprenticeships in growth sectors in construction and digital. The scheme will last for three years and will be delivered by providers (initially Tier 1 providers) through the Commercial Agreement for Employment and Health Related Services framework (CAEHRS).

Maths, English and digital training 

• Plan to focus on access for SEND people, those with Education, Health and Care Plans and English for migrants.

Technical skills 

 Expanding Institutes of Technology to increase higher-level qualifications in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Twelve in existence, eight more planned for agreement in summer 2021. • Continue to roll out T Levels, with a review to see how they can be more effective.

• Level 3 advanced technical qualifications to be reduced in number and aligned to T Levels.

• Reform higher technical education, so that L4/5 based on employer-led standards. 

• Clear progression routes for higher technical qualifications, backed by metrics for progression outcomes.

• Employer-led digital bootcamps – £8 million for employer-led short training courses lasting 12-16 weeks. First areas for delivery are West Midlands, Greater Manchester/Lancashire, Liverpool City Region, West Yorkshire, East Midlands, and the South West.

Adult education

• £2.5 billion National Skills Fund to help reverse decline in adult education.

• As part of Lifetime Skills Guarantee, any adult can access a L3 fully-funded course.

• National Skills Fund – £3.5 billion, including £95 million in 2021-2 for adults to receive L3 qualification.

  Skills infrastructure 

• Government will fund the High-Value Manufacturing Catapult’s ‘Skills Value Chain’, which assesses skills needs in manufacturing and delivers programmes of study for providers. It also supports SMEs.

• Local Skills Improvement Plans will shape provision around local labour market needs. Piloted in Trailblazer local areas. Strategic funding available from 2021/22 for colleges to reshape provision as agreed with employers.

• Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education lead alignment of majority of post16 technical education with employer-led standards. Call for evidence as to whether L2 can be employer-aligned and made more suitable for SEND learners.

• College Business Centres – proposals for these to be invited through the Strategic Development Fund.

• Move to multi-year funding, strengthen governance of colleges and new ministerial power of intervention for non-effective delivery or non-delivery of local skills needs.

• Funding from 2022 to test flexible and modular learning.