Apprenticeship providers plan conference as criticism mounts over numerous “worthless” delivery models

Training providers have called for talks on issues surrounding apprenticeships in the wake of heavy criticism.

A conference led by providers is being arranged for early next year to discuss concerns such as short apprenticeships.

It comes following numerous reports by FE Week on the current state of apprenticeships and also a further story by the Mail on Sunday last week, which claimed apprenticeships are “falling short of  skills as firms collect millions”.

Lindsay McCurdy, group manager of LinkedIn: Apprenticeships London, which was initially set up for providers in the capital but is now open across England, is setting up the conference to tackle issues, while also highlighting the success of apprenticeships.

The group has more than 800 members on the social networking site LinkedIn and around 90 have confirmed their intention to attend the summit, which is due to be held in March on a date and at a location to be arranged.

Mrs McCurdy is unhappy at apprenticeships being handed to already employed workers – a situation which FE Week has highlighted with the case of Asda.

“We must be careful not to undermine the overall apprenticeship brand which is becoming increasingly attractive amongst young people.”

The company is due to create 25,000 apprentices by the end of  2012, with the training by City & Guilds and funded by £8 million from the Skills Funding Agency, but it is believed none will amount to a new job.

She said: “Apprenticeships are about job creation, not giving already employed people qualifications.

“I am not against up skilling of already employed staff, but do not call it apprenticeships.”

She also said: “The members of  my group… have asked that we arrange a conference which is provider led to raise these issues and address them. “I am not against the government giving money to up skill employed staff, it just should not be given under the name of apprenticeships.”

In the Mail on Sunday’s article, concerns were raised “about the term ‘apprentice’ becoming devalued.”

The story has since attracted a raft of comments on the FE Week website.

Kim Cook said: “The apprenticeship name is getting bad press, at a time when we should be growing good quality apprenticeships with employers.”

She added: “I have been in this arena for 25 years and have never seen anything like this. We need stricter control and auditing.”

Andy Wilson added: “We must be careful not to undermine the overall apprenticeship brand which is becoming increasingly attractive amongst young people.”

Professor Alison Wolf, of King’s College London was commissioned by Education Secretary Michael Gove to report on vocational training.

She said: “Traditional apprenticeships have been very valuable for the economy and apprentices because they gave young people new skills plus the genuine workplace experience which they would otherwise not have obtained.

“The growing practice of re-labelling existing adult employees as ‘apprentices’ is, as far as I know, unique to this country, and particularly difficult to explain at a time when youth unemployment is at crisis levels.”