The apprenticeship system is not doing enough to alleviate youth unemployment, according to a new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research.
Young people are likely to lose out to older workers as employers attempt to recruit more apprentices and meet the government’s targets, says the report due to be published next week and entitled England’s Apprenticeships.
While there was a 30 per cent increase in the total number of apprenticeships between 2010-11 and 2014-15, the number of 17- and 18 year-old apprentices actually dropped by 8,000 in that period, according to analysis by IPPR.
And even those young people who do manage to secure an apprenticeship often do not get the appropriate training, says the report. Most apprentices, it adds, already have qualifications at the level of their apprenticeship, meaning they are not progressing.
The IPPR report also states that while the new system will work well in large organisations with a commitment to high-quality technical training, it will not deliver for the growing number of smaller businesses, as well as those working in the service sector.
'We want quality, not quantity'
It recommends a tightening of the apprenticeship standards; an extension of the apprenticeship levy, due to be introduced next year, to small employers; and a reintroduction of national recognised qualifications as part of all apprenticeships. It also urges the government to extend the deadline to deliver 3 million apprenticeships to make sure the focus remains on quality, rather than quantity.
Charlynne Pullen, senior research fellow at IPPR, said apprenticeships should be a key route for young people to move into work, but not enough young people are benefiting from the government’s apprenticeship programme. “And this situation could get worse in the coming years.
“Training existing staff in what they already know isn’t what the public think of as an apprenticeship. There is a real risk of the new apprenticeship system repeating many of the same mistakes as the previous system that it is replacing,” she added
Jonathan Clifton, IPPR’s associate director for public services, said: “We need to create an apprenticeship system that works in a jobs market that is increasingly characterised by small firms, service sector jobs and flexible working.
"The government have made a number of steps in the right direction – including introducing an apprenticeship levy – but there is more work to be done to ensure that all young people have access to high-quality ‘earning and learning’ routes”.
Teresa Frith, senior skills policy manager at the Association of Colleges, said: “There is no simple answer to the inclusion of qualifications within apprenticeship standards. There is currently nothing to stop a provider from including a qualification in their apprenticeship programme if they wish to do so, other than the commercial impact this might have on their offer.
“We share some of the concerns expressed within the IPPR report. Whilst it is to be hoped that ultimately, an apprenticeship standard certificate will be seen as a national benchmark of competency for the successful apprentice, an embedded qualification can add value in terms of portability between sectors and help protect apprentices from overly job-specific job training.”
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