A review into the government’s apprenticeship scheme has said that standards need to rise and apprenticeships need to be better monitored.
An 11-month review of the government’s apprenticeship scheme has revealed that there is much room for improvement in the cost-efficient delivery of apprentices who are properly trained with the precise skills that employers need.
The review, by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee led by chairman Adrian Bailey, says that apprenticeship delivery firms are profiting at the public’s expense.
While it acknowledges the high number of apprenticeship starts made in the UK in recent years, it places more emphasis on quality than quantity, and on value for money.
It says that apprenticeship schemes need to be more ambitious, and recommends that an apprenticeship should be seen as equal to university study.
The report also criticised the current system for paying out too much money for the results it has achieved. The scheme has recorded thousands of apprenticeship starts, but there is inadequate standardisation of skills grades.
In 2011, the government invested £1.2bn in the apprenticeship programme, with 457,200 people starting training as an apprentice.
The review makes several recommendations to improve apprenticeships. One is to assess how these schemes are funded and deployed, where there are hundreds of apprenticeship providers and the cost of deployment has escalated. It questions whether all delivery bodies provide the same value for money.
It asks for clearer government policy on apprenticeships, asking for stronger definitions and strategic objectives.
It also recommends that the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) should be formally responsible for making school children aware of apprenticeships as career options. The government agency currently has no responsibility for this
“We [have] heard evidence of excessive profits at the public’s expense, of a government paying out too much money… this is unacceptable,” the author Adrian Bailey said in the report.
Manufacturers’ group EEF said the Committee was right to tell the government to focus on the quality as well as the quantity of apprenticeships.
“While apprenticeship numbers across the economy have increased, in manufacturing and engineering this has come from intermediate rather than higher-level apprenticeships,” said Tim Thomas, head of employment and skills policy at EEF. “Manufacturers are placing a growing emphasis on research and development, more sophisticated products and a relentless focus on improving processes. This means they need more high-level skills and the government should adopt a benchmark of raising the number of higher level STEM apprenticeships by a quarter by 2015.”
EEF said that while NAS has a role to promote the apprentice route to work, the organisation could not do this on their own.
“Over half of manufacturing companies offer apprenticeships to young people to get them into the industry, so they are well placed to go into schools to speak about the opportunities associated with undertaking an apprenticeship and these relationships should be encouraged,” said Mr Thomas.