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Apprenticeships are at last starting to win back ground lost to degrees says training campaigner on Thu 12th September, 2013

This is A-level result time of year! More successful A-level students are now opting for apprenticeships over university degrees as the next step in their careers but property maintenance and refurbishment entrepreneur Will Davies warns that we must radically increase the number of apprenticeships on offer for candidates of all academic levels.

It is great that the apprenticeship is once again being recognised as a valuable way of training the next generation of our workforce.

There has been a marked increase in the number of higher apprenticeships on offer which are attracting the most able ‘A’ level students. This indicates that as a society we are taking on-the-job learning more seriously than we have done.

According to the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) there will be 20,000 ‘higher’ apprenticeships available to young workers in the UK this year. Many professions which have traditionally required a degree to enter like law, journalism and accountancy now offer apprenticeships.

If you are considering investing £9,000 a year on a university degree it is obvious that you would consider alternative means of gaining the skills you require for your chosen career.

But we have to increase the quality of training available to candidates of all academic levels.

More than 20% of the under 24 year-olds in this country are without employment or training at the moment and becoming more and more alienated by the job market.

This is a dire situation: we are in danger of loosing a generation of workers. No country can hope to return itself to a sound financial footing if it alienates 20% of its future workforce.

According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) there were 520,600 overall apprenticeship starts in the year 2012/12 which was 63,400 more than the previous year.

Unfortunately many of those apprenticeships are not as impressive as they sound. The Richard Review was instigated by Business Secretary Vince Cable and Education Secretary Michael Gove last year to re-evaluate the role of the apprenticeship in England

The Richard Review concluded that the definition of an apprenticeship had been ‘stretched too far’ and that many schemes were allowed to claim government support but only lasted a few weeks and were of little or no value.

We must improve the quality and quantity of apprenticeships if we are going to make inroads into the one million youngsters who are currently without work or training in the UK at the moment.

I have recently made a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry jointly chaired by Lord Richard Best and the Rt Hon Nick Raynsford MP into ‘Construction and Youth Employment’.

I believe that it is essential that employers are granted the power to design apprenticeships for young people. Employers know the skills they require and therefore they know the skills that are employable.

Generations of employment schemes have failed young workers. Civil servants and outside training agencies (although undoubtedly well meaning) have failed to produce youngsters with employable skills.

Employers like my own company aspect.co.uk have campaigned for years to be given access to the apprenticeship purse strings and I thoroughly support the government’s proposals that employers should be given far more financial control over how taxpayer’s cash is spent on providing apprenticeships. I would urge that all pressure is applied by the impending inquiry to speed up the government consultation into apprenticeship funding.

Another impact of our abandonment of the traditional apprenticeship system of training the next generation is mounting problem of skill shortages amongst the workforce.

In my own sector – which is property maintenance and refurbishment – we have lost something like 25% of plumbers and 19% of bricklayers over the last four years.

Business like my own need to be funded to provide the apprenticeships for young workers to fill these roles because we know what is required of them and can set them up for productive careers lasting a lifetime.

Apprenticeships also teach youngsters the essence of a ‘work ethic’: a fair day’s pay for a fair days work. Our current educational system hands out rewards far too easily and young people arrive in the workplace with the wrong mindset completely.

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John Price, Hillgrove PR.

Hillgrove PR

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E. john.price@6hillgrove.com