Employers concerned over 'bad reputation' of apprenticeships

Published:  23 April, 2012

EAL has backed government moves to tackle poor quality apprenticeships, after an independent survey revealed that 57% of industry employers are concerned about damage to the reputation of apprenticeship programmes.

EAL is a specialist awarding organisation for industry qualifications.

Since the abolition of the Train to Gain initiative, questions have been raised about whether some of the schemes badged as ‘apprenticeships’ to secure funding meet the standard expected of apprentice training. The survey showed 28.8% of employers questioned were worried about the negative impact on the apprenticeships brand, with a further 28.6% saying that damage has already been done.

Recent coverage including the BBC Panorama programme ‘The Great Apprentice Scandal’, has cited examples of some short duration programmes offering little benefit in terms of skills and employment prospects.

The National Apprenticeship Service has since published its Quality Action Plan to address issues relating to quality, content and delivery, following Skills Minister John Hayes MP’s announcement that apprenticeships will last for a minimum of 12 months for all age groups from August 2012.

While 30% of employers surveyed felt that some flexibility is needed to suit different industries and apprentices of varying ages, nearly 50% agreed that all apprenticeships should last for a minimum period of time to be worthy of the apprenticeship name.

The survey polled 500 managing directors and those responsible for HR and training at companies across engineering, manufacturing, building services, construction, energy and utilities, and environmental services.

EAL managing director Ann Watson, said: “The dramatic increase in apprenticeships means there is now more need than ever for constructive debate around quality, investment and support, for young people in particular. Rooting out the minority of programmes that do not meet certain standards is vital, and the government has shown its willingness to tackle these issues.

“In the meantime, it would be entirely wrong to overlook the many positive experiences that apprenticeship training offers individuals and their employers. Apprenticeships have a long legacy in engineering and manufacturing of providing a gold standard pathway into highly-skilled jobs.  The respect they have from employers, and the resulting demand for places, are precisely because of the high-quality, rigorous training industry apprenticeships provide.

”A balanced argument is needed during this time of change and evolution, to show both learners and businesses, as well as the general public, that an apprenticeship is a worthwhile option that can lead to and support fulfilling, long-term employment.”

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