The Government has backed up initiatives to boost trainee positions in the UK with a new best practice apprenticeship provision for employers.
Apprenticeships have long been the bedrock of industry skills development, an established feature within the manufacturing workplace many years before they were introduced into environments like the media and service sectors.
However, a decline in industrial apprenticeship programmes and a growing emphasis on university education since the 1970s has caused standards and consistency in the provision of apprenticeships to slip according to some representatives of the manufacturing industry. Among those who have concerns over the standardisation of employer practice in apprenticeship provision is Martin Temple, chairman of EEF.
At the London Launch of the 2011 Global manufacturing Festival on January 18 Temple spoke on a panel of industry experts about the confusion that exists across sectors about the depth of working experience an apprenticeship should achieve and attendees seemed largely to concur with his feelings. While it is undoubtedly true that many companies – both large and small provide rigorous apprenticeship training there are other who take their responsibility less seriously or have lower expectations with regards to apprenticeship outcomes.
Acknowledging this disparity in training practice and showing that government is serious about making apprenticeships a mainstream qualification root, Skills Minister John Hayes announced the launch yesterday of a new Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE). The new specification will be mandatory across all apprenticeship frameworks from April this year and the National Apprenticeship Service has welcomed the rigour and consistency that the new standards will help to protect.
The new specifications not only look at the content of apprenticeship training, ensuring that the skills acquired during qualification really meet the current and future needs of employers and learners, but also specify that every apprentice must receive at least 280 hours of guided learning per year and must attain nationally recognised standards in literacy, numeracy and ICT where appropriate.
Speaking about the need for these new specifications John Hayes said: “Apprenticeships are at the heart of our skills strategy because they are valued by employers and sought after by learners. By enshrining these characteristics in statute we send a clear message to employers and learners that every Apprenticeship is a high quality investment in the skills they need for the future.”
The Government will increase annual funding for adult Apprenticeships by up to £250m above the £398m a year funding inherited from the last government, by 2014-15 and is reforming the programme to deliver 75,000 more adult apprenticeship places (available to those aged 19+) at advanced level and above.
Apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds will also continue to receive full government funding for training provision meaning employers are left only with the financial responsibility of providing an apprenticeship wage. Apprenticeship Training Associations (ATAs) were launched in 2010 to provide a structure that would help groups of SME employers share this cost over the course of an apprentice’s qualification.
Over 85,000 employers offer Apprenticeships. There are almost 200 job roles in which someone may be an apprentice; from digital media to electrical engineering; horticulture to accountancy. Those with a Level 2 (GCSE level) apprenticeship earn on average around £73,000 more over their lifetime than those with an equivalent level qualification or below; and people with an advanced apprenticeship around £105,000 more.