Government revamps apprenticeships

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 1 August 2004



(2004), "Government revamps apprenticeships", Education + Training, Vol. 46 No. 6/7.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Government revamps apprenticeships

Government revamps apprenticeships

More young people will get the opportunity to learn skills under reforms to apprenticeships announced by the Education and Skills Secretary, Charles Clarke, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown.

The reforms aim to deliver a more flexible, stronger apprenticeship “ladder of opportunity”, beginning at the age of 14. The improvements will consist of the following.

  • New “young apprenticeships” for 14-16 year olds, which will be a high-quality opportunity for motivated pupils who could spend up to two days a week in the workplace learning a trade. Initial opportunities will be in engineering, automotive industries, business administration, logistics, and the arts and creative industries.

  • A “pre-apprenticeship” offer, based around the Entry to Employment programme for young people who have potential but are not yet ready or able to enter an apprenticeship, or maybe currently disengaged and disenfranchised from learning.

  • Apprenticeships at level 2, replacing the foundation modern apprenticeship.

  • Advanced apprenticeships, equal to two good A Levels or a level 3 qualification, and replacing the advanced modern apprenticeship.

  • Opening up apprenticeships to adults by scrapping the arbitrary age limit of 25. Development work will begin immediately with the licensed sector-skills councils.

Mr Clarke said that the reforms would boost business and productivity. Working through the sector-skills councils, employers would be put in the driving seat in terms of the design and development of apprenticeships.

“Apprenticeships are one of the best ways we can fill our skills gaps,” he said. “They provide young people and adults with an on-the-job training experience that gives them the direct skills needed in the workforce. The new young apprenticeships represent one of the most exciting developments for young people since the introduction of GCSEs in 1986 and fit in with Mike Tomlinson's work on 14-19 reform. The changes will mean that motivated and able pupils could spend up to two days a week learning on-the- job skills in a workplace. This will be an exciting prospect for any pupil wanting to pursue industry-specific vocational programmes on top of the core national curriculum.”

Gordon Brown said: “The Government is strongly committed to expanding and improving the apprenticeship programme in this country, which will aid the push towards our objective of full employment. Apprenticeships, which were dying a few years ago, have already risen to 255,500 in England. We must work in partnership – employers, individuals and Government – to ensure that even more businesses and even more young people are benefiting by the end of the decade through this new offer, which is testament to the growing and central importance of education, training and skills to the whole future of the British economy.”

The reforms will build on the success of modern apprenticeships, which have seen numbers grow from 75,800 trainees in 1997 to 255,500 today – the highest-ever level. With demand from young people outstripping the supply of places on offer from employers, the launch will be backed up by a major Learning and Skills Council advertising and marketing campaign targeted at increasing the number of employers offering places.

Charles Clarke added: “We now have a record 255,500 studying modern apprenticeships – up from 75,800 trainees in 1997. Although we have around a third of school leavers going on to university, people forget that around a quarter of all 16-year-olds have at least started a modern apprenticeship by 21.”

“Employers need to know that they will now be in the driving seat. Working through sector-skills councils, they will have more input into the design and development of apprenticeships. They will help to develop greater 'portability', so that an apprentice can take a part-completed apprenticeship with him or her when moving employer. This is exactly the sort of flexibility that employers have been crying out for.”

Bryan Sanderson, Learning and Skills Council (LSC) chairman, said: “A recent LSC survey showed that 44 per cent of organizations that reported skill shortages said they lost business as a result. There is no excuse for a poorly trained workforce. Apprenticeships provide businesses with the solution they need to thrive in the twenty-first century. I hope many employers respond to this call to arms and join the apprenticeship revolution. We now have a real chance to remove the skills deficit and improve productivity.”

Sir Roy Gardner, Apprenticeship Task Force chairman, and chief executive of Centrica plc, said: “A record number of young people are making an enhanced contribution to their employers' success by raising their skill levels, motivation and productivity. We want to encourage more business leaders to consider the value apprenticeships would bring to their businesses.”

The LSC, working with employer organizations, will:

  • give employers, via the sector-skills councils, a bigger role in the design, content and entry requirements of apprenticeships;

  • develop greater “portability” arrangements so that an apprentice can take a part-completed apprenticeship with him or her when moving employer;

  • create a clearing house for school leavers, to match prospective trainees to employers;

  • work towards awarding “accredited” status for those who successfully complete an apprenticeship;

  • explore the development of credit-based qualifications in apprenticeships better to meet the needs of employers;

  • review financial incentives for apprentices to maintain the attractiveness of the apprenticeship programme;

  • consider financial incentives to encourage more small and medium-size employers to get on board; and

  • introduce an eight-week probationary period for the trainee and employer.

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