Apprenticeships East Sussex minutes: 27th April 2023

Apprenticeships East Sussex minutes: 27th April 2023

Meeting details

Date: Thursday 27 April 2023

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: Microsoft Teams

Attendees and apologies







Caroline Bragg

Chair - ESCC, Employability & Skills Strategy Manager


Alex Green

DWP, Service Leader East Sussex


Christina Ewbank

Alliance of Chambers East Sussex, Facilitator


Donna Harfield

ESCG, Vice-Principal Business Development


Dr David Oloke

University of Brighton, Head of Technical Education and Apprenticeships


Geraldine Turton

University of Brighton, Apprenticeships Manager


Hayley Robertson

ESCG, Head of Apprenticeships

IW [part]

Ian Whittle

RESTART, Partnership Manager South Coast


Jermaine Olafa

CXK, Regional Manager, Skills & Employability


Paul Wright

Trac, Project Director


Stephen Burkes

ESCC, Employability & Skills Project Manager


Stephen King

SCTP, Moving on Up Project


Sara Taylor

Eastbourne & Lewes Councils, Regeneration Officer

VPo [part]

Vanessa Potter

SCTP, Executive Director




Donnalyn Morris

ESCC, Employability & Skills Project Officer




Claire Witz

Sussex Chamber, LSIP Skills Director


Dan Karlsson

Plumpton College, Head of Business Partnerships


Jennie Cole

East Sussex Careers Hub, Enterprise Co-ordinator

Actions arising from this meeting




Ask DK if wishes to present on land and environmental at a later meeting




Mini research project to gather more evidence. Better evidence will support lobbying


Bring forward to next meeting

Seek LSIF (Local Skills Improvement Fund) via LSIP to see what training is available regionally



Update the AES action plan


For next meeting

October meeting invitation to go out



1. Welcome (new members)

Those present introduced themselves. HR from ESCG was welcomed to her first meeting, as was JO who has joined the team at CXK in the last year. His remit is skills and employability for the region.

2. Review of Previous Minutes & Actions

The actions were gone through.
Regarding apprenticeships in the creative industries, PW advised that Trac are moving into these. There is interest from the theatre sector. There was a sense from LSIP (Local Skills Improvement Plan) feedback that digital apprenticeships were not working very well, but there tend to be more of these than others related to the sector.
ACTION 1: Ask DK if wishes to present on land and environmental at a later meeting – DM
No further DWP/Youth Hub update required until end of summer.
Information on the EcoHomes project had been circulated on behalf of CllrMu.
Roadshows steering group have met and are meeting outside the main group.
Data and other items are on the agenda.

3. Presentation of 2021/22 data

CB gave a presentation on data covering 2015/16 up to 2021/22, the latest full set available. The data is for learners living in East Sussex and the age is the age at the start of the apprenticeship.
There has been a fall in starts (3,920) from 2015/16 to 2021/22 (2,790). Numbers are on the up since 2019/20 and Covid appears to have made little impact. Achievements in 2021/22 (990) were down year on year from 2018/19 and well below the peak (2,140) in 2017/18.
Hard evidence for falls is lacking. Reduced availability of level 2 programmes could play a part. There has been a decline in level 2 starts from 2019/20. This corresponds to a decline in under 19 starts over the same period.
SBu raised that there was consistent growth leading up to the reforms of 2017. These reforms tackled three elements at once:
1) Introduction of the levy, reforming funding
2) Assessment model replaced by the apprenticeship standard and end point assessment (EPA) and external validation
3) Increased numbers of higher (level 5 and above) apprenticeships
PW pointed out that in 2013/14 a fall had been seen then when policy changed regarding advanced level learner loans. He remarked that some large providers now view apprenticeships as loss leaders – they are too difficult and too expensive. DH said that there are valid points about difficulties. It is possible to expand what is offered and using levy payers helps to get large numbers of learner. Not all provision can be built this way.
DO said that resource constraints make links to degree programmes tricky. The first year of these was a steep learning curve for all involved. Standalone delivery has to be possible as it is ‘defeating the purpose’ to go for large employers only. Nationally, 70% of construction companies are SMEs, this is highlighted locally.
There is a fall in achievement rates at all levels and ages. EPAs and other factors mean apprenticeships cannot be completed in 12 months. DH highlighted that there is a timing issue with achievement rates leading to no funding being drawn down and therefore training a worker for free. She said that a positive of a system with more hoops to jump through is that it ‘drives up quality’. Employers who are involved are ‘doing it for the right reason’ and not waiting to draw down grant funding and then dismiss staff.
DH would like to look at data on apprenticeship numbers by training provider. Her hunch is that we have moved from national providers to more local providers with decreased sub-contracting from the colleges. She continued that larger companies now having to engage (pay the levy) with apprenticeships is good. Those aged 24 and above used to be less likely to receive training due to a lack of funding.
HRo noted that the EPA model needs to be reviewed as it impacts retention. Having something akin to an exam also creates anxiety in learners, many of whom have deliberately avoided exams or more formal study since school.
CE raised that costs not being covered is a real concern. She wondered what lobbying could be done on potential government policy. It would be helpful if the levy were flexible to pay for non-apprenticeship training. Those aged 16-18 used to be funded through DfE (as others their age would be in full-time education). There are many who argue this should be the case once more for these young people.

4. Apprenticeships & Technical Education (ATE) Transitions workshop feedback and agreement of priorities for 2023/24

CB said that the Careers Hub apprenticeship training event focussed on young people as part of the Hub’s work for CEC (Careers and Enterprise Company). There are a number of challenges, some are local specific, some apply nationally:
• Apprenticeship demand and capacity – the county has lots of SMEs. Many roles not advertised. Many employers do not have PAYE and find the digital ‘paperwork’ time-consuming and complex.
• Employer expectations – need to understand that person will not be fully qualified to do the job straightaway.
• Access to options – limited roles, lack of transport mean opportunities are not as great in urban areas
• Lack of promotion and understanding of the vast range of apprenticeship levels and sectors at school and college from both young people and educators
• Low conversion rate of interest to take up at 16-18 as young people not prepared for the world of work yet
• Skills match to next step is not always there, especially for those needing support with functional skills
• In recent years (Covid impact) fewer young people have developed employability skills and gained experience through part-time work
• Social media and other influences has increased desires to do ‘glamorous’ jobs which are not realistic or readily available
Through ASK (Apprenticeship Support and Knowledge) the message about expectations and realities of work is getting to more young people in education settings sooner. Other work includes more involvement from training providers as well as employers in promoting apprenticeship pathways.
The group agreed that there are issues to amplify with DfE. Highlights are:
• Reducing the complexity for employers, especially to support SMEs who do not have dedicated staff
• The impact on youth employability due to reduced level 2 offers and being deemed more of a challenge for employers
ACTION 2: Mini research project to gather more evidence. Better evidence will support lobbying – AES/Secretariat
DO asked if the group should cover HTQs (Higher Technical Qualifications) as the LLE (Lifelong [Learning] Loan Entitlement) will focus on modular training. CB advised that AES covered technical education generally – T Levels have been on the agenda. Transform came about through a mini feasibility study and this helped the funding bid. Considering lobbying due to rural and coastal locations for uplifts to be considered also.
Members also wished to add T Level progression routes to future discussion and potential lobbying. Currently, T Level learners lack the work experience to take up Level 4 (and these are not necessarily available) apprenticeships but are usually ineligible for Level 3 apprenticeships. Not all T Levels are well suited for university entrance, and learners want and need other continuing education options.
PW said it would be useful to find out when training is not meeting demand. Knowing provider starts date is a good first step. He advised this is something the local authority in Norfolk are able to do. DH cautioned that confirmed starts are often uncertain until starts in September. It is also a fluid process and responsive to demand so availability is not set in stone.
ACTION 3: Seek LSIF (Local Skills Improvement Fund) via LSIP to see what training is available regionally
ACTION 4: Update the AES action plan – CB/SBu’s successor with AES

5. Transform - celebration, impact and legacy and Apprenticeship Roadshows

Leading on from the last item, VPo stated that employers see technical pathways as the future workforce. They want high achievers. In the UK, higher achieving students tend to go to university. Technical education and academic achievement need to be in better balance. There are historic cultural reasons why this differs so much in the UK compared to elsewhere, particularly European countries. Positive messaging on this is a long-term aim.
VPo began her presentation with a reminder of the project’s aims of engaging with 150 SMEs, conducting organisational skills analyses, promoting apprenticeship opportunities and business support provision.
As of years 1 and 2 (numbers have moved since compiled) the project has:
• Engaged with 110 SMEs
• Had 72 apprenticeship starts
• Had over 1200 attendees at apprenticeship roadshows with 2 more in summer 2023
• Delivered 10 business support workshops
The largest percentage of apprenticeship (25%) have been in construction, with 22% in health and social care. 32% have been in Wealden, 20% Rother, 19% Lewes, 15% Eastbourne and 14% in Hastings. CE observed that Wealden has a much higher number of businesses registered than other parts of the county. Over half (56%) have been new starters with 30% upskilling the workforce.
£580k of levy transfer has supported SMEs.
The project intends to have two legacy toolkits: one for levy payers and one for SMEs. However, ideally, future funding to continue its work is sought.

6. Format of AES: members, meetings and agendas

CB advised there was limited response to the poll, but there was agreement to invite ITPs (independent training providers), slight preference for three meetings a year. Those present agreed with the proposal to have more ITPs on board noting this will alter discussion.
There was a preference to have four meetings a year, not three.

7. AOB/Date of Next Meeting

With the Apprenticeship Steering Group due to meet prior to the 21 June and 5 July roadshows, meeting in October ties in with both the three and four meeting a year forward agendas. The new Partnerships and Programmes Manager will be in post by that time also.
All present thanked SBu for his work and insights on apprenticeships in his time with SES. As he is going to head up a training provider in Sussex, he would be welcome at future meetings.
ACTION 5: October meeting invitation to go out – Secretariat