Vince Cable slams “weak” apprenticeship courses

Posted on 25 May 2012

Business Secretary Vince Cable has lambasted the Government's apprenticeship programme for wasting taxpayers’ money.

Visiting Siemens’ gas turbine plant with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in Berlin yesterday, the ministers were hoping to learn from a German industrial strategy that produces around 1.5 million apprentices every year.

“Youngsters taking the vocational route have been let down by weak courses in the past which wasted their time and taxpayers’ money. This Government is determined to improve the quality of vocational training and our trip to Germany will be used as a fact finding mission to look at what we can learn from our neighbours.”

The Government has introduced a one year minimum period for apprenticeships after quality was watered down, following the expansion of the term to include professions requiring shorter training periods.

Senior policy adviser at the Forum of Private Business, Alex Jackman, said that apprenticeships are facing an identity crisis. “At a general level we have spent decades devaluing GCSEs, A-levels and degrees by making them easier to pass. It is just not acceptable to devalue apprenticeships in the same way,” he said.

Tony Burke, assistant general secretary at the union Unite, commented that Dr Cable “has got it right and knows what needs to be done to support industry,” but noted that the same could not be said for some of his colleagues in parliament.

“The Coalition Government is moving in different directions. Cable advocates an interventionalist strategy that helped to keep Vauxhall’s Ellesmere plant open but the Tories have no strategy. They don’t get it,” he opined.

Cable, who was labelled a socialist that isn’t fit for office by Downing Street advisor Adrian Beecroft this week, took aim at the inequalities that make Britain the hardest place in Europe for poorer members of society to achieve top jobs.

“Apprenticeships can take talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into the boardrooms of top British companies,” said Dr Cable.

“Creating the right conditions to revive UK manufacturing is central to this government’s mission as it will help create long term growth that is balanced between sectors and across the country,” he added.