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British Rubber & Polyurethane Products Association


Education and skills

Posted on 17 July 2018

BRPPA and their members offer a range of educational courses. Full course details can be found belowPost-18 Education

On 19 February the PM announced a wide-ranging review of Post 18 education and its funding.

The Government’s wide-ranging review will focus on the following four areas:

  • Choice: identifying ways to help people make more effective choices between the different options available after 18, so they can make more informed decisions about their futures.
  • Value for money: looking at how students and graduates contribute to the cost of their education
  • Access: enabling people from all backgrounds to progress and succeed in post-18 education.
  • Skills provision: future-proofing the economy by making sure we have a post-18 education system that is providing the skills that employers need. This is crucial in delivering on the government’s Industrial Strategy.


Government data shows that in the 6 months that followed the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April 2017 apprenticeship starts fell by 41% compared to the same period the previous year. In addition, the Open University has published a report which shows that more than £1bn in apprenticeship funding available through the apprenticeship levy has not yet been used – leaving employers with just a year to spend the remaining funds.

Science Industry Partnership, which inter alia covers our sector, in common with many employers across all sectors of the economy, have continued to press for changes to the design and the functioning of the apprenticeship levy. It makes a number of specific recommendations.

Increase the time to spend levy funds from 24 months to 36 months

Levy funds currently only last 24 months, which is not long enough for science employers, not least because the length of an apprenticeship in STEM can be up to 48 months. To this end, the SIP would like to request an increase in the amount of time employers have to spend their levy to 36 months.

Increase the amount of funding employers can transfer

Employers are now able to transfer 10% of their apprenticeship funds to another organisation if they do not want to use their full pot.  SIP members say this is not enough and that employers should be able transfer more of their levy pot.  This could, for example, help to facilitate group training schemes – a particular consideration for specialist skills – from applied bioscience through to  robotics for cell handling, where viable cohorts are needed to make the training economic for providers.

Speed up the process for approval of new Standards and ensure IfA is a robust regulator

Some STEM Standards, where there is real demand, have not been available to employers in a timely manner, leading to some frustration from companies and providers, and reduced ability for SIP employers to maximise the return for their levy. The Institute for Apprenticehips (IfA) has recently published reforms to streamline the way it works through its much welcome Faster and Better Programme and the SIP looks forward to the swift implementation of this. The SIP would also like to see the IfA operate long term as a robust regulator, with a clear focus on quality over quantity.

Re-consider the 20% off-the-job training rule

The 20% off-the-job training rule is a significant barrier to using the levy effectively to upskill/reskill the existing workforce. The rule states that off-the job apprenticeship training must be “completed within contracted hours” so, for example, distance learning conducted in an employee’s own time does not count. A number of SIP members have stated that it is extremely challenging for their established workforce to be ‘non-productive’ for the equivalent of a day a week, and this has restricted the use of apprentice-based training for vital upskilling and reskilling. In addition, such a move would mean that the individual learner could make a contribution, through utilisation of their own time; this would mean more of co-investment approach to the learner’s upskilling programme.

Build and invest in a responsive local training provider market through the devolution of skills agenda

The apprenticeship reform programme was brought in at speed, with employers paying the levy, but with some important Standards not necessarily being available, and specialist training not accessible in an employer’s local area. This has resulted in the employers’ levy  “purchasing power” being somewhat diminished. For example, feedback from SIP employers in the science-heavy Oxford-Cambridge area, tells us that while they are keen to take on R&D apprentices, the specialist provision is not always available to them. This should be addressed through the devolution of skills agenda, and would see funding being directed to providers based on what is needed in the local area and to meet the needs of the industries that underpin the local economy.

Using levy funding for Group Schemes to support SMEs

The science sector is keen to develop proposals, which explore how unspent levy funds might be utilised to increase the supply of apprentices into SMEs and the supply chain. The ability to utilise unspent levy funding in this way would allow smaller supply chain companies who may never have taken on apprentices to test the water, form viable provider cohorts and see if it is a useful recruitment method for them. Such Group Schemes need funding for set up, management and community engagement, and this would be an ideal solution with long-term benefits.

Rubber technology training

The sandwich course in rubber technology at a level equivalent to BTEC level 3, is being currently run, as before on a private basis by Charanjit Chodha as tutor in Leicester, with 9-10 students. Further work is being done by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) on the option of their taking on formally the accreditation and running of the course, from their site in Grantham, and the aim is to complete this work in the course of the summer. The intention is to bounce off the proposals with employers, through the Elastomer Training Action Group, before they are finalised.

Other courses are available through:

  • Smithers Rapra. They can provide customised training courses on your site or at a venue of your choice and will work with you to develop training tailored to your needs. Smithers Rapra training courses are presented by experienced Consultants who solve clients’ problems on a daily basis and can cover a variety of topics on rubber and plastic materials such as manufacturing processes, material selection, avoidance of failure and cost down projects in medical, automotive, food contact and industrial components applications. On-site customised training has been shown to increase employee involvement, provide a close business fit and reduce travel and time out of the office. For more information, contact Kerry Haralambou on 01939 252312 or email or visit our website.
  • Artis. They run an introduction to rubber technology course, which has been designed by industry and academic experts to provide students with the knowledge and practical hands on experience to help further their professional development.  The Artis course has been approved by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining approved (IOM3) and is extremely useful for new starters, shop floor staff, sales/business development personnel or staff members which require refresher training, allowing staff to interact in a more efficient manner on topics of elastomer and rubber materials. For more details, contact us here.