Westminster Employment Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

The future for apprenticeships in England - growing participation and improving diversity

Morning, Friday, 19th March 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference focuses on key issues for apprenticeships in England - including increasing participation and diversity, as well as the way forward for apprenticeships in the wake of the pandemic, and how they can contribute to wider economic recovery.

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with policy officials who are due to attend from the DfE; BEIS; the Cabinet Office; the DWP; the MOD; Ofsted; and the VOA.

The agenda:

  • Apprenticeships in England - priorities for participation and diversity
  • Apprenticeship participation post-pandemic - redundancies and the apprenticeship brand, emergency funding, and support for providers and for apprentices from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • The role of flexible provision and funding in apprenticeship diversity and participation - the new pledge function, effective use of the apprenticeship levy, and the National Minimum Wage increase
  • Case studies: initiatives for diversity in apprenticeships
    • The Inclusive Employers Toolkit: supporting young black men into construction and digital sectors
    • The impact of the 5 Cities Project and next steps for improving ethnic minority inclusion
  • Integrating diversity and participation into economic recovery - coverage and access in disadvantaged areas, improving awareness of apprenticeships, and plans for supporting hardest-hit sectors
  • Next steps for promoting apprenticeships and supporting students to explore options

Areas for discussion:

  • the impact of the pandemic - on the drive to improve diversity and participation in apprenticeships, and what is needed from policy
  • government measures and support:
    • overall effectiveness - of measures announced during the pandemic including business grants for hiring young apprentices, expansion of work coaches, and redundancy support
    • young apprentices from disadvantaged groups:
      • challenges - being more likely to work in apprenticeships at lower levels, in small companies with lower salaries, and to lack access to equipment or study space for remote study
      • priorities - what more is needed for targeted and effective support, and the extent to which policy has succeeded in helping hardest-hit companies and apprentice groups
      • career guidance - with concern on the impact of the pandemic on the capacity of education providers, priorities for access to support needed for securing an apprenticeship
      • the new Inclusive Employers Toolkit - a case study on supporting young black men into construction and digital sector workforces
    • impact and next steps:
      • the extent to which thechanges respond to the needs of employers and previous calls in the sector for increased flexibility in the apprenticeship levy
      • how the new flexibilities can be harnessed to enable more companies to offer apprenticeships and make them more appealing to young people
      • how businesses can be encouraged to spend their levy funds for recruiting young people from deprived communities, alongside upskilling existing employees
      • the Institute for Apprenticeship’s recent consultation - whether the update has addressed concerns around the new funding band model potentially reducing funding for existing apprenticeships and has taken into account  the costs for delivering apprenticeships not eligible for government funding
  • economic recovery and the role of apprenticeships:
    • policy concerns and initiatives - widening inequalities as a result of the pandemic, and the policy drive to boost post-pandemic economic growth by investing in skills
    • key sectors - widening access to apprenticeships in areas such as construction, health and social care as well as those central to addressing labour market skills gaps, such as in STEM
    • levelling up - the role that improved participation and diversity in apprenticeships can play in supporting economic recovery in more deprived regions and communities
    • local collaboration - with a case study from the recently completed 5 Cities Project and lessons learned from joint working between stakeholders including local authorities and businesses
  • public confidence:
    • the apprenticeship brand - in the wake of the redundancies and financial struggles apprentices have faced during the pandemic
    • ways to reassure future cohorts they will be supported during exceptional circumstances and to encourage them to take up apprenticeships

A scan of relevant developments:

  • the spread of COVID-19 - bringing about significant challenges to the delivery of apprenticeships and attempts to improve participation
  • completion of the timeframe set out in the 2015 governmental plan for apprenticeships - targeting 3m apprenticeship starts and 20% ethnic minority representation by 2020
  • the Plan for Jobs - which included incentive payments for hiring new apprenticeships during the COVID-19 crisis
  • the Lifetime Skills Guarantee - with the Prime Minister’s promise to expand the apprenticeship provision
  • the forthcoming FE White Paper - set to drive further improvements in the sector
  • Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education announcements:
    • end-point assessments -  extensions to temporary flexibilities until at least August 2021, following the latest lockdown
    • proposed new model for apprenticeship funding band recommendations - and an update on its recent consultation on the new model, funding, and costs for delivering apprenticeships not eligible for Government funding
  • governmental support announced during the pandemic - grants for businesses hiring apprentices, doubling the number of work coaches, and the new Redundancy Support Service for Apprentices
  • commitments in Spending Review 2020 - including on levy flexibility and funding, the National Minimum Wage for apprentices, and extended incentive payments
  • further government announcements - on support for businesses offering apprenticeships and introducing more flexibility in the apprenticeship system
  • the Apprenticeship Levy ­- Degree Apprenticeships: Levelling Up? Sutton Trust research:
    • finding that since introduction, Senior Leader degree apprenticeships have grown by 517%, with 99% of apprentices being over 25 and only 13% coming from the most deprived areas
    • recommending measures such as requiring employers to top up their levy fund for certain apprenticeship categories and for more transparency on the balance of apprenticeships across age groups, levels and existing staff and new starters to be required from employers

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from BEIS; the Cabinet Office; the Department for Education; the Department for International Trade; DWP; the Ministry of Defence; Ofsted; and the VOA. Also due to attend are representatives from Anglia Ruskin University; Babcock Training; Compass Group UK & Ireland; Dstl; Emanuel School; IOPC; Manufacturing Technology Centre; NCFE; The Science and Technology Facilities Council; and University College Birmingham.

A press pass has been reserved by a representative from the Bonhill Group.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Louise Wright

Deputy Director for Apprentices, Department for Education

John Cope

Director of Strategy, Policy and Public Affairs, UCAS


Karin Smyth MP


Iain Gallagher

Senior Manager, Emerging Talent, Santander UK

Cindy Rampersaud

Senior Vice President, BTEC and Apprenticeships, Pearson

Jane Hickie

Managing Director, Association of Employment and Learning Providers

Jeremy Crook

Chief Executive, Black Training and Enterprise Group

Nic Hutchins

Principal Skills Manager (Apprenticeships), Greater Manchester Combined Authority

Peter Dickinson

Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick

Kirsti Lord

Deputy Chief Executive, Association of Colleges