Government has trumped its own targets for the provision of adult apprenticeships providing reassurance that the up-skilling of older workers is not to play second fiddle to young recruits.
New statistics show that government has far exceeded its own targets for the provision of adult apprenticeships.
In May 2010 government committed to providing 50,000 more adult apprenticeship placements in the UK, however, the most recent figures show that over the 2010-11 financial year 103,000 places have already been taken up.
This significant appetite for continuous professional development among UK workers should relieve fears that an aging workforce in the UK will not be able to meet developing skills needs.
Speaking on the importance of adult learning Skills Minister, John Hayes says: “When we talk about recalibrating our workforce [for economic rebalance]; when we look at the 2020 workforce, we must remember that a massive proportion of that workforce is already over the age of 16 and is already at work.
“That is why the government has protected the budget for adult and community working. This is often a route back in to learning. One of the biggest areas of growth in apprenticeships has been in the 25+ apprenticeships. The indication is that there is a real hunger among people to learn and for employers to engage with 25+ apprentices.”
Warning employers off assuming that their apprentices will be of a certain age Hayes continued: “We shouldn’t assume that apprenticeships are just for young people. They are an important opportunity for young people but this is not exclusive. They are also an opportunity for people to change their life course by changing their skills.”
Responding to the news that adult apprenticeships have achieved such significant growth Ann Watson, skills commentator and MD of engineering awarding body, EAL says: “This is fantastic news which shows there is a real appetite among adult learners to take on vocational training and boost their skills and job prospects.”
Looking to the long term however Watson called on government to ensure they could sustain this appetite: “Government must ensure that it continues to promote skilled vocational training and not rest on its laurels, otherwise vital sectors such as engineering or manufacturing could still face a critical skills shortage in years to come.
“The recent introduction of the NUS Apprentice Card is promising sign of a commitment to encouraging people to take up apprenticeships and place vocational education on an equal footing with traditional degrees.”
Watson also pointed out that despite the success so far in resurrecting apprenticeships as a recognised and respected route for education and into the workplace, there is more that could be done to support SMEs in doing their bit for the revival.
Watson says: “Government must ensure that it supports smaller businesses so that they can afford to invest in an apprentice and that it is not just large firms that benefit from Government funded training places.”
Many smaller manufacturing firms – despite experiencing buoyancy in the economic upturn – have said that they are uncertain about taking on apprentices due to the perceived administrative burden and doubts over their ability to provide appropriate training and mentoring.