Science Industry Partnership

26 Jun 2019

Science Industry Partnership sets out concerns over Post-18 Education Report recommendation to curtail levy use for apprenticeships Level 6 and above

Members of the Science Industry Partnership (SIP) which embraces life and industrial sciences, have responded to the Independent panel report Review of Post-18 Education and Funding.

The SIP has said that Panel Chair Dr Philip Augar is to be congratulated on the review, which is the first since the early 1960s to consider both Further and Higher education (tertiary education) together. It provides the opportunity to consider the roles both should play in meeting the UK’s economic needs, and its recommendations for a shift of emphasis and funding from HE to FE is to be welcomed.

However, the SIP cautions against the report’s recommendation that “funding for Level 6 and above apprenticeships should be available only for apprentices who have not previously undertaken a publicly-supported degree.”

While the SIP recognises concerns in relation to degree apprenticeships and above (Level 6), in particular that some employers are rebadging existing schemes to claim funds, its members wish to counter this by setting out a clear case for maintaining the use of levy funding for Degree, Masters and PhD level apprenticeships where the individual already holds a degree (this will almost certainly be the case for those moving onto a Masters/ PhD level apprenticeship as part of their progression):

  • The fact that apprenticeships no longer sit entirely within the realm of Further Education, but now offer a programme that also encompasses level 6 and 7 has been wholeheartedly embraced by the science-using industries. Indeed this sector was an enthusiastic and early adopter of the apprenticeship route at the higher levels.
  • However the SIP’s Apprenticeship Survey, published in September last year, revealed that the majority of science employers’ levy contribution remains unrecovered: only 13% of the levy raised by the respondents had been recovered for apprenticeships (dropping to 6% in life sciences). Employers expressed strong desire to use their levy for high quality apprenticeships.
  • The Standards which have been developed at this level and above including for example Bioinformatician Scientist, Regulatory Affairs Specialist, Clinical Trials Specialist and Research Scientist were set out as a priority in the Life Sciences Sector Deal, with the SIP charged with taking steps to ensure uptake of such standards.
  • A number of sectors with highly specialist skills needs now have plans for level 8 (PhD) apprenticeships in the pipeline or indeed with the Institute for Technical Education and Apprenticeships (IfATE) for approval which have not progressed. This provides the opportunity to grow the pipeline of skilled people in expert roles, while in the workplace.
  • It has been acknowledged that Brexit is likely to constrict the supply of highly specialist skills. HR professionals in the sector are increasingly using specialist apprenticeships as part of their strategic workforce planning, and higher level Standards are key to delivering this. Indeed the recent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), recommended biological scientists and biochemists are included on the list.

SIP Chair and GSK Director Dr Malcolm Skingle said: “We recognise that this review has concluded the current reforms to the apprenticeship system are still in progress. However, the panel have made clear recommendations which we acknowledge will feed into any review of the apprenticeship levy and so they have an important role to play.

“We understand the Panel’s concern that levy funding is being used to rebadge some training. However, as the report itself states tertiary education needs to be forward looking. The future challenges of technological innovation and artificial intelligence mean that we need to see people moving on to these important standards and the withdrawal of funding where an individual holds a degree would seriously undermine this development.

“The importance of moving between Further and Higher Education is also a key consideration in post-18 funding. At GSK we have a number of examples of this, most recently one of our highly talented apprentices, Hajra Bibi has received a place the University of Oxford to undertake an MSc in Integrated Immunology. This is a one-year, full-time course for which GSK will fund her Hajra’s student fees. We are very proud of her commitment to developing her subject matter expertise.”

“We therefore urge Government not to take any decisions that would threaten high level skills development in demonstrably needed occupations.”

Download the Post 18 Augar Report