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.”

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  1. I totally agree that the apprenticeship programme should be aimed at getting unemployed people into work and that those already employed should be offered a different programme.
    We do offer apprenticeships for employed people and struggle to get them upskilled with their level 2 functional skills, they may be employed and under qualified but aren’t able to meet the requirements of the apprenticeship framework.

  2. In rural areas young people wanting to go on apprenticeship programmes are put off by the rising cost of transport. All of their apprenticeship wage goes on getting to and from the business they work in and as they are committing to 30 hours per week or more that is their only income.

    There should be more financial help for young people in rural areas to get to and from their place of work then they could consider an apprenticeship.

    Similarly, why should existing employees not benefit from work-based training, re-brand the apprenticeships if it is causing a problem. Some have come from school with very little in the way of qualifications, especially in numeracy and literacy. It is also a way that the employer can motivate them and invest in them, especially in some areas such as Health and Social Care which struggles to recruit staff. Keeping loyal staff is paramount for these businesses.

  3. Scott Upton

    Couldn’t disagree more with the L2 FS bit Min. People in work who lack functional skills should definitely get them as part of any government-funded programme.This will make access to more advanced training easier for them. Why do half the job?

  4. I have mixed views about the brand only being used to define skills development aimed at those who were out of work, however I do completely agree that the current situation is very confused – with many facets having multiple issues in their own right.

    Is it helpful having a brand, nationally accredited skills programme and a funding stream all called the same thing?
    Consider differentiation of SFA/YPLA investment by starting point rather than just age; getting anyone into work supported by a skills development programme is more difficult and costly than providing someone already in employment with a programme to ensure they stay there and make the most of their career for themselves and their employer.

    One thing that has been clearly evident for decades is that funding drives provider behaviour, so if Apprenticeships are going to be used as the vehicle to reduce youth unemployment, increase funding to £15,000 to get a 16-18 classed as NEET into a paid employment, with a real employer doing commercially valuable work and following a structured learning programme – this would actually save £42,000 of public expenditure according to York Uni study on ‘cost of NEET’.

    Apply a funding reduction factor to those who are already in work on commencing their Apprenticeship and reduce the funding available to large employers who provide embedded intensive accreditation programmes to £300 towards meeting national standards, external verification and certification. Just a couple of thoughts…