Lord O’Neill of Gatley, commercial secretary to the Treasury and Small Business, Industry and Enterprise Minister Anna Soubry were recently quizzed by the the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee over how to maintain the quality of apprenticeships.

The duo were asked how their work would ensure that apprenticeship starts, counting towards the 3 million apprenticeships target the government has set itself for 2015,  were of high quality. In response both said focusing on the levels of quality was not necessary.

Committee member Peter Kyle appeared to equate apprenticeship levels with the issue of programme quality when he challenged the representatives as to why the government had not set a target for higher level apprenticeships — at level four and above.

“All evidence presented to this committee in this inquiry has been that the emphasis should be on quality not quantity — the only target you have is for quantity not quality,” the MP said in the session.

Soubry answered by saying apprenticeships would be ‘quality-assured by virtue of the Enterprise Bill’, which includes a measure to prevent providers, but not employers, from labelling courses as apprenticeships if they do not meet the statutory programme’s rules, but added: “I don’t know your levels; I don’t know the detail of that.”

Lord O’Neill said: “I don’t see, at this particular point, identifying numbers between various levels of apprenticeship as that crucial to this particular policy — where we’re trying to change the game of who drives and contributes to the skills agenda.”

Ofsted in a report recently panned some low level apprenticeships and said that an effort had to be made to ensure that apprenticeships were of a high quality.