Today the Mail on Sunday published an article which was highly critical of the growth in apprenticeships, particularly at the supermarkets; Morrisons and Asda. The national newspaper contacted FE Week for a quote, as a blue chip company had called them to complain that not all apprenticeships were what the public might expect them to be.

The article reads: Many schemes are existing programmes relaunched  under new names and subsidised by the taxpayer. Among those collecting millions in taxpayers’  money are supermarket giants Morrisons and Asda, which between them claim to be creating more than 40,000 apprentices over the coming year. While a few hundred will be trained as expert butchers, bakers or other technical staff, most will in practice be manning checkouts and stacking shelves. Asda admitted that not one of its 25,000 apprenticeships amounted to a new job.”

Click here to read the full article online.

FE Week has written numerous articles in the past few months about the rapid rise in apprenticeships (see below), particularly for those over the age of 25 and at Morrisons and Asda. Many include comments from readers, and you can add yours below.

Related FE Week articles:

Remind me again why I pay the training budget of a $422bn company?

City and Guilds allocated more than £8m for 25,000 Asda Apprentices

Morrisons, Elmfied and the over 25 Apprentices

12 week apprenticeships still advertised

Will 12 week apprentices ever be derailed?

Latest apprenticeship policy slammed

NAS concerned about quality following rapid apprenticeship expansion

Concern at 12 week apprenticeships

External related links:

BBC Radio 4 In Business programme on supermarket apprentices

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  1. Middlesbrough College has experienced a very significant increase in the numbers of 19+ learners seeking to enrol, up by some 12%. The growth is such that we currently have demand some £1.5m beyong our allocated SFA budget. Amongst this unmet demand are signicant numbers of 19+ apprentices, not necessarily in priority areas. The SFA has made it clear that the College is unlikely to receive additional funding in anything other than priority areas and even then they cannot commit until the end of Q1. We also have several employers offering apprenticeships which we are unable to fund. In Englands 8th poorest town (index of multiple deprivation 2010), where literally hundreds of adults are seeking the skills with which they can live happy and prosperous lives. I believe that the experience in Middlesbrough is being repeated up and down the country. What is to be done?

    • Scott Upton

      Hi Everyone, the first thing that must be addressed are the scam providers that are draining Apprenticeship funding from the system. I’m currently at Sandwell College, but I’ve spent the past twenty years working with Apprenticeships and trying to lay to rest the ghost of YTS / YOP (cheap labour, poor quality). We have recently had several young people apply to join our Apprenticeship programmes who are not now eligible because it turns oiut they were paid by a provider to complete a 5 week ‘summer apprenticeship’ where there was only the pretence of real work and the ‘learning’ consisted of a ‘tutor’ saying “write this in this box”. I have reported this to NAS, let’s hope they do something with the information. Apprenticeships are the programme that should have the biggest potential to change people’s lives by providing secure employment and real qualifications. Let’s not slip back to chasing targets at any cost.

      • Kim Cook

        Hear hear, this is happening all over the country and these poor youngsters have used up any entitlement they may have on a useless and worthless so called apprenticeship.
        The apprenticeship name is getting bad press, at a time when we should be growing good quality apprenticeships with employers. What are NAS doing about these accelerated apprenticeships, how are these scam providers getting away with it? I along with other colleagues are reporting at least a case a week to NAS
        We need to find out who they are sub-contracted to and withdraw their funding, the prime contractor must be reprimanded severely. Someone is giving these providers the contract money for the sake of quantity over quality
        I have been in this arena for 25 years and have never seen anything like this, we need stricter control and auditing.

  2. Lindsay McCurdy Group Manager LinkedIn Apprenticeships London

    Hi Mike
    Apprenticeships are about job creation, not giving already employed people qulifications, I am not against up skilling of already employed staff but do not call it apprenticeships,Not one new job has been created, and the numbers that are being mentioned would be been 20% of last years total apprenticeships. I would love to know what ASDA and Morrisons spend their training budget on. Did you manage to point the employers to other providers who have funding in your area, if not i will be able to help. The members (800+) of my group on LinkedIn Apprenticeships London,has now opened the group membership due to demand to the whole of england, have asked that we arrange a national conference which is provider led to raise these issues and address them.

  3. Lindsay McCurdy Group Manager LinkedIn Apprenticeships London

    Hi Mike
    If you have employers offering apprenticeships I can help to put you intouch with providers with funding in your local area. I run a group on LinkedIn Called Apprenticeships London, which due to demand has opened up its membership to all in the UK. I agree Mike apprenticeships should be about job creation, not giving public money to already employed staff to receive a qualification. I would love to see the training programme for these staff. I am not against the gov giving money to up skill employed staff, just should not be given under the name of apprenticeships. The events of the last few months which FE week have spoken about have led the members of my group 800+ ask for a national conference to be held with the providers setting the agenda.

  4. This is an important story and it is clearly wrong that limited funding should be supporting dubious training for the existing employees of big companies. However, we must be careful not to undermine the overall apprenticeship brand which is becoming increasingly attractive amongst young people. Let’s make sure the press are aware that it is only a minority of apprenticeship funding which is being used in this way.

  5. George Layfield

    I’m a product of the old apprenticeship programme complete with indentures, full training and certification at all levels. The results of which gave me access to Higher Education and a successful life. The destruction of the brand by cynical manipulation of the funding and regimes that are little more than short courses is depriving excellent providers such as Middlesbrough College (above) along with many equally good private providers of the funds to deliver more of the quality provision already being delivered.

    Am I angry, you bet I am!

  6. When Asda show the TV clip with someone patting their back pocket, they mean to suggest we the consumers (tax payers) benefit. How blessedly naive we all are! Just like children we sit there with mouths open aghast that they have taken the food out of our mouths.

  7. Anth Mills

    What on earth is happening to the system??? This appaling use of public funds needs to be stopped.

    What is more frightening is that the supermarkets will probably be above the Minimum Contract Value when it gradually increases, where some good quality providers are going to suffer.

    But are the government bothered as long as targets are met????

  8. This problem has all been created by the government. When the Learning and Skills Council disbanded and became the YPLA, SFA and NAS, NAS (national Apprenticeship Service) were responsible for ‘beefing up’ the brand of apprenticeships; they were to do this by increasing the numbers of people taking up an apprenticeship. They were given strict, and not necessarily achievable, targets. To be able to achieve, and exceed, these targets they have had to cut a few corners in doing so. These corners have included agreeing to fund 12 week apprenticeships, which leave the learner with relatively no experience, no job, and no chance to receive funding for another, more useful, longer term apprenticeship, and agreeing to fund ‘apprenticeships’ in already established workforces.
    Now NAS are backtracking by saying they don’t want these short, sharp apprenticeships because they aren’t worth anything to the learner – well they agreed to them in the first place!!!!!
    As for the supermarkets that are raping the system of funding, that could be made use to give employers incentives to take on an apprentice, shame on you. Upskill your workforce by all means, but do not do it with my money. I pay my taxes so young people have a chance in life to follow a career path through accessing an apprenticeship of worth that will stand them in good stead for the future, not so your profits increase by another billion.
    NAS have a lot to answer for, and have you tried to get an answer from them on this? They hide behind the words ‘less bureaucracy’; well from what I see it would be less bureaucratic if we closed them down and used that money more wisely elsewhere, and I don’t mean rebrand them with the same jokers in charge a complete shut down and rethink

  9. John Jones

    There appears to be substantial inequities between what a large retail employer can expect in help for re- and upskilling and that of a micro SME manufacturer. Is this anything to do with donations at election time or the directorships of some MPs? I think we should be told.

  10. Mike Askew

    Like all the other posts on here, I’m appalled at the present state of affairs regarding Apprenticeships. In Staffordshire alone we now have 8 organisations (that we know of) offering “fast track” programmes. We have:
    – customer service positions in 12 weeks coming out of ears!
    – catering in 13 weeks.
    – railway engineering in 12 to 15 weeks with few job opportunities.
    – sports activity leadership in 20 weeks with few job opportunities.
    – painting and decorators doing a customer service apprenticeship.
    – motor vehicle in 6 months.
    I’m not sure of the exact number of learners on these programmes but the evidence is growing that a large percentage when they finish join the unemployed / NEET register.
    Multiply this across the country and I’m afraid we have already got significant numbers of young people and their parents / carers who will be “putting the boot” into apprenticehsips! Add that to the number of employers who are reading articles like the one in The Mail, and boy have we got a potential image / brand problem here!!
    The most worrying thing however is that many of us around the provider network scene have been raising the issue since the first fast track programmes started to appear and explained the risk of proliferation only to be told – No we won’t allow that! We are now being asked to highlight any examples we think may be non-compliant. How can anyone have confidence in any of the agencies who are supposedly in control of contracting and monitoring quality of government funded programmes when they don’t know who is delivering what and when you tell them of your concerns seem unable or maybe unwilling to act.
    I like Scot remember YTS and have seen a lot of very committed individuals and organisations work mightily hard to repair the damage of that and I also agree with Andy that we need a balanced view here to help protect the brand. However, we need strong action and the removal of non compliant offers!
    Finally, I’m interested to see how long it is before we get the official response from anyone following the article.

  11. lindsay mcurdy

    Mike I am finding that some providers are hiring the apprentices and paying the wage of the apprentice (min wage) then giving them to businesses under the title of work placements at no cost to the business. I am arranging a conference in March to address these issues as teh SFA and NAS seem to be target driven rather then quality driven, it is a numbers game.

  12. Amy Ealing

    I don’t see what the fuss is about? Sports activity leadership in 20 weeks or 5 months? If its an intensive programme with the minimum GLH it meets the requirements of the SASE…. Nothing wrong here.

  13. Amy Ealing

    Ps – Its clear to see that the usual “College brigade” are on her complaining bitterly about quantity over quality. In the real world (i.e. the private sector) the Government doesn’t bail you out if you run out of money because you’ve delivered a Customer Service apprenticeship over 2 years like I know some colleges still do! This is the 2011 and not 1971. Government funding has been slashed dramatically over the last 2 years and that has caused this problem not greed – in order to continue to deliver these programmes of course they need to be delivered in a more cost effective manner…

  14. Scott Upton

    Amy Ealing – I think you’ll find that a lot of people on here represent reputable independent providers as well.

    As one of the “College Brigade” (p.s. can you actually define what you mean by that?), I am not about to start apologising for wanting quality AND quantity.

    Mind you, as a private provider once earnestly told me, “Quality doesn’t pay the bills”.

    • Amy Ealing

      Dear Scott – by “College Brigade” I refer to the collection of individuals who have never seen outside the walls of their gleeming tax payer funded state of the art campuses! This being where employer engagement is a dirty word and those campuses ironically being where the infamous classroom based PLA were created and delivered in there thousands wasting £Ms. Pot calling the kettle black I reckon.

      • Amy – I can only guess that you are from one of these hothouse, fast-track apprenticeship organisations. I have no doubt that the intense training that these learners are doing is of a high standard (in some cases) but there is another part to apprenticeships, and that’s to make the learner work ready, to enable these learners to stay on at the company they are doing their apprenticeship with, or move to another employer and have that employer satisfied that the learner coming to them has a great experience of a working environment. To be both the training provider and employer is wrong (even if you call them different names)
        And another little piece of information for you, independent training providers are also businesses, but it doesn’t stop the reputable ones (and there are many) giving the learner a great ‘apprenticeship programme’ and not a 12 week sausgage factory approach where the learner gets nothing

      • Scott Upton

        Amy, such vitriol!
        The tax payer funds the gleaming campus because all of the ‘profits’ from it are re-invested for the community good. I don’t believe you’ve told us who you work for (I have), but I expect that if it’s a private organisation the profits go to the shareholders. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, but don’t criticise colleges for receiving state resources when they operate solely in the interest of the state.

        By the way, employer engagement isn’t a dirty word in colleges and hasn’t been for a good while. Private training companies do not have a monopoly on understanding businesses.

        Scott Upton, Sandwell College.