Skills Minister Nick Boles reveals government considering signing apprentices up to spread the careers guidance word

Apprentices could be asked to sign contracts upon enrolment requiring them to deliver careers advice, Skills Minister Nick Boles told the Conservative Party conference in Manchester today.

Leading a panel including an apprentice and Crossrail chair Terry Morgan, Mr Boles called for help from delegates in Manchester in persuading young people to take up apprenticeships and in convincing employers to create the earn and learn vacancies.

He said: “One of the things we’re thinking about is asking every apprentice to sign a simple contract. We are going to ask people in that contract to agree to go back to that school and talk to the youngsters coming behind them about the opportunities of apprenticeships, so everybody really understands from the horse’s mouth what a great thing this is.”

Mr Boles also admitted to having felt “quite pleased” with himself when the government claimed to have hit its 2m starts target of the last Parliament around a year ago, which was followed by the pledge by Prime Minister David Cameron that the target would be 3m in this Parliament.

“I need your help as parents, as grandparents, as friends and neighbours to persuade young people like Josh that an apprenticeship is a great thing for their future,” said Mr Boles.

“And I need your help as councillors, as businesspeople, as members of rotary and round table, in persuading employers like Terry that they should be investing in apprenticeships to create those opportunities for young people.

“We have a lot of work to do, but it’s good work and it’s very exciting to be a part of it.”

The panel discussion was followed by a speech from Business Secretary Sajid Javid, who said the government was “going further” in its bid to create apprenticeship starts.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid speaks at Conservative Party Conference Pic: PA Photo/Jon Super
Business Secretary Sajid Javid speaks at Conservative Party Conference. Pic: PA Photo/Jon Super

He added: “Our targets are not just numbers. Our targets are people. Like Josh, the young man we saw on stage this morning. Someone filled with drive, dedication and determination. The sort of person that this one nation government is unashamedly on the side of, and will always be.”

Mr Javid also celebrated his party’s win in May’s general election, and even heaped some criticism on his Liberal Democrat predecessor in his government post, Dr Vince Cable.

He said: “It’s been nearly 20 years since the last Conservative secretary of state left the Department of Trade and Industry. Two decades of countless Labour ministers. Two decades of side-lining and marginalising business, including five years of Vince Cable, and believe me, that was more than enough.”

Apprenticeships also featured in other speeches, with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announcing that he would work with Crossrail’s Mr Morgan to create “30,000 apprenticeships across road and rail by 2020”.

Click here for coverage of last week’s Labour conference. Expect further conference coverage in a free supplement with edition 150 of FE Week, dated Monday, October 12.

Main pic: Nick Boles at Conservative Party conference today. Pic: PA

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  1. When they’re qualified to level 6 in careers guidance they can give careers advice. Until then they are just sharing their opinions and experience.

    Guidance is a specialist form of coaching and/or counselling. Would you allow an unqualified psychologist treat your child? Well unqualified careers advice may not seem like a risky business but think of the effects it could have:-

    University drop out because you chose the wrong course
    Mental strain because she of poor career choices
    Lost years gaining qualifications which don’t lead to your preferred path…

    It’s time to realise careers guidance is a profession and stop thinking anyone can do it.

    By the way, I’m not a careers adviser. I’m an ex teacher who has a deep appreciation for the complexities of the career choice process

  2. I’m sceptical about compulsion, but I saw a good model some years back which Nick Boles and his officials might want to consider as a refinement of this idea. Kvaerner Cleveland Bridge, a ‘big engineering’ projects company in Darlington, encouraged its apprentices to go back into their old schools to say what an apprenticeship was like, and why they liked what they did – and (typically) why they wished they’d taken a bit more notice of maths at school. The company gave them all some presentational skills training before they went into the schools. I was evaluating the funding for the Education Business Partnership, which coordinated the programme, and it seemed to work.

  3. FE Lecturer

    Another great idea from the government; talk first and think about it later (if at all).
    The reality is that there are huge numbers of young people applying for relatively few apprenticeships with big companies. There are not enough HIGH QUALITY apprenticeships out there.
    The government needs to focus on encouraging big companies to offer more apprenticeships and provide financial grants to help them.

  4. As usual, the role of careers guidance is not fully understood. I think what Nick Boles actually means is that he wants Apprentices to become ‘ambassadors’ to promote the benefits of apprenticeships. Unfortunatley, his speach writer has used the wrong terminology and so it sounds as though he is suggesting they should give ‘careers guidance’ – which when you read on is not what he is saying at all. I am a careers guidance professional, qualified at Level 6 and get really hacked off with the goverment and education system’s constant devaluataion of careers guidance. The methodology applied in careers guidance is actually the same applied within counselling frameworks, it is a proper process that requires a qualified and knowledgeable person at the helm in order to achieve positive change and progress. I wish people would stop assuming that anyone can give careers guidance, as Janet said, you wouldn’t let an unqualified pyscologist treat your child would you?

  5. Joseph Lonsdale

    As a Professional Careers Adviser I can see both the pros and cons of this. Incidentally I am involved in organising an event where we do want apprentices to come and talk about their experiences. It does have its merits and I have always encouraged young people to talk to people about jobs they are interested in hear it from those who have ‘done it’. However, I would agree with other comments that this is not Careers Guidance. You have also got to remember that any apprentice will have had both good and bad experiences and if they have had a bad one they will be poor adverts for that profession! Equally, if they have had a good one they could be a bit blind to the disadvantages as well.I also always warn young people of this. I do this because I am a trained Careers Adviser who recognises the need to make sure the person I am speaking to weighs up all their options and the good/bad points. This is not something I would expect an apprentice to do anymore than I would expect an English Teacher to speak with confidence and sure ability about being a Careers Adviser without the proper training and vice versa. Please, please be clear about what is Careers Guidance and what is information and advice. It is not the same.

    • Mark Thompson

      Hi Joseph,
      I myself am an apprentice, recently completed a Level 3 in Software & Web Development. I do events like this with local schools near my area (Canary Wharf). I preach both the pros and cons, like the social aspect, firstly, this is crucial as you don’t have lots and lots of friends your age in your workplace. Another would be that you’ll specialize in a certain area, which is also a pro…
      I think as long as you practice and go over a speech with somebody who is trained, (i covered all of mine with a careers advisor at work) and spend atleast 2 hours a month talking to local pupils. Things like this are a great advert for apprentices, but also gives people guidance on whether an apprenticeship is right for them. In essence, I believe if you choose select apprentices to do events like this, and not make it compulsory, then that would be a better option.