‘Shorter type’ of apprenticeship for over-50s eyed by chancellor in economic growth plans

Jeremy Hunt plans talks with education secretary on over 50s in apprenticeships

Jeremy Hunt plans talks with education secretary on over 50s in apprenticeships

27 Jan 2023, 13:59

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A “slightly shorter type” of apprenticeship could be explored to help get over-50s to retrain or back into work, the chancellor suggested today.

Jeremy Hunt voiced ambitions for conversations with education secretary Gillian Keegan on that idea to address out-of-work adults and aid the government’s economic growth plans.

Speaking at Bloomberg this morning, the chancellor said that education would be one of the four pillars of his economic growth plans, admitting that “we don’t do nearly as well for the 50 per cent of school leavers who do not go to university as we do for those that do”.

Hunt also said that there were around nine million adults with low basic literacy or maths skills and more than 100,000 school leavers each year who had not reached required standards in maths or English, which made it difficult for those people when they may need to train for several different occupations over the course of their lives.

He continued that the government had “made progress with T Levels, bootcamps and apprenticeships” as part of its reforms, explaining that “we want to ensure our young people have the skills they would get in Switzerland or Singapore”.

The chancellor said that encouraging older workers back into the workforce or helping them to retrain is one of the issues to help growth, issuing a rallying call to the more than five million working age adults who are economically inactive that “Britain needs you”.

Hunt said that would include looking at more occupational health support to help prevent those with mental health needs, back problems and other health conditions from leaving work.

But apprenticeships, which have a legal 12-month minimum duration requirement, could also be in scope for those plans.

“When it comes to apprenticeships, there is a sense that apprenticeships are for young people, but there are lots of people who are ready and willing to consider a new career in their early 50s,” he said following his speech.

“They are expecting to work potentially for another 20 years, and they might need a slightly different type of apprenticeship, a slightly shorter type of apprenticeship, and I think that could be very good.”

He added that it is “a dialogue with Gillian Keegan we very much hope to pursue”.

Economic inactivity among over-50s has hit the headlines in recent months, with work and pensions secretary Mel Stride telling MPs in November that he was looking for “quick wins” to get over-50s who have had health issues back into work.

The skills bootcamps programme was one such scheme set-up to deliver quick skills training in sectors where shortages are at their most acute, such as in lorry driving, digital and construction.

The 12-to-16-week courses are available for those aged 19 and above, and guarantee an interview with an employer at the end of the course.

Data published last month revealed that the government had exceeded its target for skills bootcamps between April 2021 and March 2022, securing 16,120 starts against a planned 16,000 for the short courses.

Data on number of completers for that period was not released, however.

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  1. Phil Hatton

    Apprenticeships for older people were recommended in inspection surveys of apprenticeships. The only reason the one year minimum came in was because funding body staff did not understand the outcomes of some surveys. So when findings pointed out that basically some apprenticeships were not fit for purpose at L2 because they did not have sufficient skills and knowledge development to equate to a proper L2, someone came up with the idea that rather than get rid of them that putting a one year minimum would somehow equate to a quality product. If you have a bright and committed person getting through a real apprenticeship quicker than the recommended time, there is no reason that they should be held back to tick an ESFA box. The apprenticeship methodology is a great way to acquire skills, knowledge and behaviours when done properly.

  2. It’s entirely possible that Jeremy Hunts motivation is not altruistic and seeking to benefit the individual, but a means of getting some cheap workers into the workforce.

    They’ve loved the ‘economically inactive’ for years as they get excluded from some stats and have been telling us all how well they are doing as unemployment has been so low.

    Shorter, cheaper apprenticeships are just another way of massaging stats in the wake of falling starts since 2017, but without having to pay for it!

    Shorter, cheaper, shallower, lower quality. That is where this is heading.

  3. Good luck with finding suitable staff to teach and deliver the programmes particularly engineering, electrical and construction areas. Maths and English staff are also scarce.

  4. Neil Roberts

    It really depends whether you are talking about up-skilling or re-skilling. Re-skilling to a different vocation will usually be much more of a challenge than up-skilling in someone’s current area of expertise.