Preliminary terms of reference have been heard ahead of an MP led inquiry into apprenticeships.

The Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee expect to start the inquiry, revealed by FE Week earlier this month, in the New Year.

Adrian Bailey MP, chairman of the committee, said the inquiry will start in February and will be followed by a call for evidence which will start “fairly soon”.

Mr Bailey, speaking exclusively to FE Week, said the enquiry will address a number of issues surrounding apprenticeships, including quality, control, and employer contributions.

It comes following an announcement by skills minister John Hayes earlier this week that apprenticeships for 16 to 18-year-olds must be completed over at least 12 months, as well as strict new measures on quality.

When asked about who should be responsible for monitoring quality, Mr Bailey said: “I think we might incorporate that into Select Committee consideration.”

The call for evidence, which will be announced on the BIS Select Committee website, will enable anyone to submit written evidence for review.

Mr Bailey announced the enquiry at the ‘Real or Rebrand?’ apprenticeships debate organised by FE Week at the House of Commons in November.

Speaking at the event, Mr Bailey said: “I’m sure there are an enormous number of people in this room today who would want to submit evidence to that enquiry.

“So please look out for that and submit it, but don’t feel constrained about the committee’s timetable – I’m very happy to receive your submissions at any time on issues surrounding apprenticeships.”

Mr Bailey also attended the debate on apprenticeships held at the House of Commons last Monday, where Mr Hayes announced the minimum duration for all apprentices aged under-19.

Mr Bailey said: “The government is providing a considerable sum of money ostensibly for apprenticeships.

“A substantial proportion of that money is not providing apprenticeships as we understand them, but going to general training, which may itself be very good, but a lot of it might actually be done by a company as a whole.

“The government needs to review that, assess the financial implications of it and look to distribute some of that money in a way which I think is more effective.”

Mr Bailey said the problems surrounding apprenticeships were “highly dangerous” for the coalition government, and could potentially “blow up in their face.”

“What we need is real apprenticeships, and an adequate level of funding to ensure that they are meaningful and effective,” Mr Bailey said.

“The government should concentrate less on numbers and more on appropriateness of the course and validity.”

Paul Champion

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