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Bad advice hobbles apprentice scheme

The Government's drive to boost apprenticeships is under threat because of the continuing poor quality of careers advice and guidance, a survey has shown.

Two-thirds of first-year apprentices questioned by researchers said they were advised by their teachers to stay on at school. Of these, most were told they should study A-levels.

The survey was carried out by the EEF, the manufacturers organisation, and SEMTA, the science, engineering and manufacturing technologies sector skills council.

One in five of those questioned was advised to apply for apprenticeships; 83 per cent were given little or no information on apprenticeships; and 33 per cent believed the advice they were given was based on what served the school's own interests.

A previous EEF study of 600 senior managers in the UK, France and Germany showed UK manufacturers believed poor careers advice was the strongest obstacle to recruiting apprentices.

In Germany, teachers discuss career options and training during the last two years of schooling. In France, employer-managed apprentice training centres help teenagers find a place.

Ian Peters, EEF director of education and skills, said: "Young people continue to receive inadequate advice and guidance which is often biased towards the traditional academic route and does not make them aware of the full range of options available.

"Without a step change in the quality of careers advice, young people will continue to believe that apprenticeships are for the disaffected and low-achievers only and the Government will fail to encourage more young people into vocational education."

Philip Whiteman, acting chief executive of SEMTA, said: "Shortages of vocational skills are one of the major reasons for poor levels of productivity in the UK which can only be addressed by improving the quality of young people entering apprenticeships. There is an urgent need to provide substantially increased resources so we can dispel once and for all the poor image of vocational education."

Modern apprenticeships were renamed, simply, "apprenticeships" in a relaunch of the scheme by Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, in May.

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