Westminster Employment Forum

We are continuing to organise full-scale virtual conferences which retain all the features of physical seminars, including full programmes, presentations with slides, panel discussions and live delegate questions and comments sessions, person-to-person and group networking, and a permanent record provided to all delegates afterwards. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time, so there are plenty of opportunities 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.

If you’re already booked on, joining instructions can be accessed from five working days before your conference via the booking dashboard. Need help? Contact us at delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

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

April 2021

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference focuses on key issues for apprenticeships in England.

Areas for discussion in the agenda include:

  • increasing apprenticeship participation and diversity
  • the impact of the pandemic - and charting the way forward
  • meeting the needs of employers - and options for supporting providers and apprentices from deprived backgrounds
  • growing the apprenticeship profile - and helping students to explore options
  • flexible provision and funding - and effective use of the Levy
  • case studies - initiatives for diversity in apprenticeships
  • economic recovery - maximising the contribution of a thriving and diverse apprenticeship sector

The conference is bringing together stakeholders with parliamentary pass-holders from the Ministry of Defence and policy officials who are due to attend from the DfE; BEIS; the Cabinet Office; DCMS; DIT; DfT; Dstl; DWP; the FCDO; 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
    • Improving ethnic minority inclusion for apprenticeships in Birmingham
  • Improving access to apprenticeships, addressing funding challenges and driving social mobility
  • 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 - assessing the impact 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 faced - 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 evaluating the extent to which policy has succeeded in helping hardest-hit companies and apprentice groups
      • career guidance - with concern over the impact of the pandemic on the capacity of education providers, and 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:
      • meeting needs - the extent to which the changes respond to the requirements of employers and previous calls in the sector for increased flexibility in the apprenticeship levy
      • increasing availability and uptake - how the new flexibilities can be harnessed to enable more companies to offer apprenticeships and make them more appealing to young people
      • ensuring the Levy’s aims are met - 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 - discussing the widening of 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
    • supporting future cohorts - ways to reassure they will be supported during exceptional circumstances, and to encourage them to take up apprenticeships

A scan of relevant developments:

  • the Skills for Jobs White Paper - which looks to transform post-16 education by introducing measures for improving the quality of apprenticeships, including: 
    • a £65m Strategic Development Fund - to create College Business Centres, bringing businesses and colleges together to ensure the delivery of education and training meets local needs
    • introduction of flexible student finance - to improve access to further education by ensuring individuals can train and retrain at any point, regardless of their background 
  • Funding boost to get more young people into work - the Apprenticeships and Skills Minister announcing a new £1,000 cash support scheme for employers providing new apprenticeships, available until July 2021 with the aim of getting more young people into work
  • 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
  • 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 the Spending Review 2020 - including on levy flexibility and funding, the National Minimum Wage for apprentices, and extended incentive payments
  • further government announcements - including 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
      • new starters to be required from employers

Policy officials attending:

Places have been reserved by officials from BEIS; the Cabinet Office; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; the Department for Education; the Department for International Trade; Department for Transport; the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory; the DWP; the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office; the Ministry of Defence; Ofsted; and the Valuation Office Agency. Also due to attend are representatives from AIM Qualifications and Assessment Group; Anglia Ruskin University; Babcock Training; BPP University; Brightside; Carpenters Group; Coach Core Foundation; Devon Partnership Trust; Dstl; Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology; Emanuel School; First Past the Post; GK Apprenticeships; Imperial College London; Innocent Drinks; Independent Office for Police Conduct; JTL; Kids Planet Day Nurseries; Lifetime Training; Manufacturing Technology Centre; Manufacturing Technology Centre; Northern Council for Further Education; NHS Employers; Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust; Queen Mary University of London; South Cambridgeshire District Council; South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Staffordshire University; St Clement Danes School; Stirling Careers Consultancy; Thermal Insulation Contractors Association; The Science and Technology Facilities Council; UCAS; University College Birmingham; University of East Anglia; University of Leeds; University of Plymouth and Volterra Partners.

Press passes have been reserved by representatives from the Bonhill Group and Tes.

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

Shortly after every Westminster Employment Forum seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates