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Apprenticeship funding reform: 'The light is at the end of the tunnel' says campaigner on Wed 7th August, 2013

New plans announced by government in August to give employers financial control over apprenticeship training have been warmly received by property maintenance and refurbishment entrepreneur Will Davies - who is a long term campaigner for apprenticeship reform - he explains why here.

At last, we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. At my own company we have been saying for years that too many young people are leaving school without the basic skills required for a life of work.

Generations of young workers have been fobbed of with a succession of government administered training schemes that have failed to impart the required skills or to find them jobs.

Employers know the skills needed to make people, especially young people, employable and they should be the guiding force in designing apprenticeships: not civil servants or outside training agencies.

Government announced a consultation with all interested parties in August into a shake up of how taxpayer's money is used to fund apprenticeships. The result of this consultation that we must hope for is that employers are given access to the apprenticeships purse strings so that they can design training that is fit for purpose.

The consultation follows in the wake of the Richard Review in Apprenticeships published last year which highlighted inefficiency and abuse in the current system.

The Richard Review was instigated by Business Secretary Vince Cable and Education Secretary Michael Gove to re-evaluate the role of the apprenticeship in England and concluded that the definition of an apprenticeship had been "stretched too far" and that schemes which only lasted a few weeks were incapable of providing real skills.

To be frank, UK apprenticeships had - in the worst cases - dissolved into little more than a source of cheap labour and a means to claim government grants

The new government consultation will discuss three possible models for apprenticeship funding: a 'direct payment model' would pay employers as soon as they register apprentices; a 'PAYE payment model', would pay companies funding an apprentice on receipt of a PAYE return. The final model, known as 'provider payment', would retain the current system of funding external training providers but they would only receive funds when employers were happy with training and had made their contribution.

University degrees and what are called 'Higher Apprenticeships' are fine for academically gifted young people but there has to be another route provided for youngsters leaving school and in need of acquiring more basic employable skills.

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.

To make matters worse, the recession has also left a legacy of skill shortages.

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.

At we have returned to a system of old fashioned apprenticeships for training our own young workers and we select candidates from specially prepared 'Apprenticeship Boot Camps'.

Youngsters are put through a series of fitness, literacy and numeracy tests. They are able to commit to the scheme because we were able to demonstrate that the reward was genuine on-the-job training.

The individuals who were prepared to contribute the most to a boot camp were the individuals who<> has benefited most from employing.

I can only urge other employers that if they can give young people an opportunity to demonstrate how keen they are to work; they will be astonished with the results.

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John Price, Hillgrove PR.

Hillgrove PR

T. +44 (0) 20 3603 0366