The Labour Party has been urged by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) to scrap its policy that apprenticeships should start from at least level three and last a minimum of two years.
Labour claims the move would improve the apprenticeship “brand”, but the AELP said the changes would stop employers taking on an apprentice where they only had level two positions available.
An AELP spokesperson said: “We would have a number of concerns if the opposition persisted with this policy. An apprenticeship is a proper job with training.
“All apprentices are employed and many employers only have an entry-level job available and they therefore offer a level two programme to an apprentice. Many employers will not have a level three job available for job entrants as in many sectors this would involve supervisory work.
“If the programme has to be level three, then employers will offer very few opportunities for young people and we would see a substantial increase in the numbers that remain unemployed.”
The policy was unveiled in September last year by Labour’s Skills Taskforce. Its report, A revolution in apprenticeships: a something-for-something deal with employers, said: “To protect the apprenticeship brand, level two training should be renamed as a traineeship or similar.”
It proposed that apprenticeships be level three or above and last a minimum of two years for level three (equivalent to A-level) and three years for level four (university level).
The report went on to say: “However, given that two-thirds of all apprenticeships in England are now at level two, these measures would inevitably lead to a dramatic fall in apprenticeship numbers if introduced suddenly.
“Employers and providers should therefore be given time to improve the quality of their apprenticeships over an agreed period. It is also vital that young people achieving at level two are able to progress to higher levels, so level two apprenticeships should be redesigned, as well as renamed, to ensure courses provide a platform for progression to a level three apprenticeship.”
However, the AELP spokesperson said: “Traineeships are for young people who are unemployed and Labour would be cutting off the real employment opportunities that level two apprenticeships give.
“We do however support the view that many more of our young people who achieve a level two should be given the opportunity to progress to level three.”
The AELP’s comments come after Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt (pictured) re-emphasised his commitment to the policy in his address at the Association of Colleges annual conference in Birmingham.
He said: “It cannot be right that one label covers everything from a short-course level one up to what amounts to a vocational PhD, and I would argue that it is this elasticity which is allowing the government to get away with the grade-inflating numbers game which sees short-term employee training re-badged as an apprenticeship.”