Labour 'concerned' and brand promise of an apprenticeship guarantee a 'deception'

Labour’s shadow apprenticeships minister has branded the prime minister’s “apprenticeship guarantee” proposal a “deception”.

Toby Perkins told FE Week he was “concerned” that young people were being given “false reassurance” by Boris Johnson at a time when they are facing “a very difficult job market”.

His comments come a day after Johnson told the nation during his coronavirus briefing that young people “should be guaranteed an apprenticeship” after warning of “many, many job losses” expected from the fallout of Covid-19.

The prime minister added that young people “in particular” are at the highest risk of losing their jobs or being unable to find work so “it is going to be vital that we guarantee apprenticeships for young people”.

His comments made headlines across the national media and has divided opinion across the FE sector, with some lauding the proposal while others are sceptical about its viability.

The idea of an apprenticeship “guarantee” originally came from education select committee chair Robert Halfon who tabled it Johnson during last week’s Liaison Committee hearing.

It is not clear, however, exactly how an apprenticeship could be “guaranteed” and the government has so far stopped short of explaining how it would work or even if it is an official policy they are working on.

Perkins said: “I am very concerned that a deception is being performed here because the announcement as I understand it is that the government will fund the learning part of an apprenticeship, but we all know the most expensive part of employing an apprentice is paying their wages, and if the government aren’t offering to do that then this no way constitutes a ‘guarantee’.

“When young people who are facing potentially a very difficult job market are given false reassurance it really is most unfair. I’m calling on government be clear about what it is they are offering here and not to use words like ‘guarantee’ unless they genuinely are guaranteeing that young people will have an apprenticeship.”

The Department for Education has provided a statement in response to Johnson’s comments from yesterday, but it fails to reference the “apprenticeship guarantee”.

A spokesperson said: “Apprenticeships are an excellent way to get into a wide range of rewarding and valuable careers, and they will continue to play a vital role in delivering the high-quality skills employers need and that will support our economic recovery post Covid-19.

“We are looking at ensuring that we support employers, especially small businesses, to take on new apprentices this year and will provide further detail in due course.”

Halfon has today written for FE Week on why an apprenticeship guarantee is needed. Read it here.