Apprenticeships and vocational training need to be explained more clearly to learners, according to Simon Hughes MP.
The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats said the number of vocational qualifications needed to be simplified into a “menu” of options that is clearer for both parents and young people.
Mr Hughes told FE Week at the ICG Conference: “What is the best set of offers to make in terms of apprenticeship options?
“Is it going to be a conventional three or four year apprenticeship, where you’re splitting your time between the work and getting back to day release colleges, or is it going to be a much more intensive one year apprenticeship for a certain set of skills?
“We need a real menu which describes the options.”
Mr Hughes also said that learners needed to understand the qualifications associated with each apprenticeship, and then be able to make an educated decision about whether or not it’s worthwhile.
“I feel that youngsters are often misled into thinking this is going to be good for me,
this is going to be valid, and sometimes they’re just Mickey Mouse non qualifications,” Mr Hughes said.
“We need to make sure we just try and give honest assessments, because otherwise we get schools who are going to be asked to present their destination statistics – and they will not be nearly as keen if what they send people onto are things that in UCAS points terms, don’t count for anything.”
FE Week discovered in September that some learners are being forced to turn down apprenticeships, or have their families risk losing vital benefits payments.
Some families could lose their child benefit and child tax credits if a young person starts an apprenticeship on £2.60 an hour, the national apprentice minimum wage.
Commenting on the issue, Mr Hughes said: “There needs to be a menu of prices for parents too, so that they know the implications for them, and the implications of the system.
“It needs to be done in a way that’s centrally available, and I think it should be done independently of government.”
Mr Hughes also said he thought colleges and schools will become better at providing information about vocational courses in the future.
“There is a potential opportunity that because people are fearful of the whole university fees ‘hoo-ha’, there’s actually going to be more effort about communicating into schools,” Mr Hughes said.
“I think there will be a much more effective communication into schools and colleges. It’s in the government’s interest that it should be, so they need to coordinate them and other people getting their act together to give the information very simply, very directly, and starting early.”