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Poor data on apprenticeships harming skills drive says Kent County Council training boss Sue Dunn

By Chris Price

Data on apprenticeships is out of date and slowing down attempts to address skills shortages, according to a leading council officer.

Numbers supplied by the government are also too focused on starts and completions rather than the number of people actively taking apprenticeships.

Sue Dunn, head of skills and employability at Kent County Council, said there was a question mark over the quality of information being provided to local authorities.

Kent County Council's head of skills and employability Sue Dunn

Kent County Council's head of skills and employability Sue Dunn

She said cutbacks at the Skills Funding Agency, the department that supplies apprenticeship data, meant the council no longer had a relationship manager to consult at the body.

She said more regular data updates were needed to focus the council’s efforts more effectively.

“I don’t think the data is good,” she said.

“There is a big issue if the government is trying to promote apprenticeships.

“We are getting out-of-date stuff. The info can be two years out of date.

“If there is a shortage of apprenticeships in a particular area, we are looking at data for 2015/16 and that focuses on completions, not necessarily the number of people actively on apprenticeships.

"It presents us with a challenge. We can’t be as responsive as we want to be.

Charlotte Carr is an apprentice with Pfizer

Charlotte Carr is an apprentice with Pfizer

“We use our local networks and get the information from colleges but that is not the complete picture because we don’t have the national providers.”

The comments come as the KM Group continues to wage its Kick Start Kent campaign, aimed at improving completion rates, raising awareness and making sure reforms are properly administered.

Ms Dunn also expressed fears that the government’s target to create three million apprenticeships by the end of this parliament could repeat mistakes made with university education.

The target could create a wave of apprentices who complete their courses but have nowhere to go at the end, much like the surge in people with degrees who are unable to differentiate themselves from other candidates.

“We are getting out-of-date stuff. The info can be two years out of date..." - Sue Dunn, Kent County Council

She added that Kent had been told it must create 707 apprenticeships next year through the council and schools, excluding academies.

Former teacher Ms Dunn said: “The target given to us should be negotiated on an individual basis with the public sector bodies rather than as a percentage of employers.

“We are happy to have a target but can we look at this in an incremental way?

“There is a danger that we end up in a position where we have all these apprenticeships and they have nowhere to go.

“They diminish our budgets and then give us this stretching target.

“It should have been negotiated together.

“Targets don’t always improve performance.”

The Skills Funding Agency did not respond to requests for comment.

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