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England needs "German-style apprenticeship system" claims report

England needs an ‘apprenticeship revolution’ with up to 300,000 extra three-year apprenticeships starting every year to boost social mobility and the economy, according to a major new report.

Education charity the Sutton Trust today set out a radical blueprint for the future of apprenticeships, saying England should look to Germany’s system to improve skills and opportunities for young people.

The plan, which the trust says could boost the economy by around £8 billion a year, comes on the same day the government claimed more people than ever before are taking part in an apprenticeship.

Provisional figures show nearly 860,000 people were on an apprenticeship in 2012/13, almost 370,000 more than in 2009/10.

However, according to the Sutton Trust report, the recent expansion in apprenticeships has been driven by low-level qualifications, often targeted at older workers.

It says fewer than 200,000 of the 520,000 apprenticeships starting each year in England are at level 3 (A level standard) or higher, and only 61,000 new apprenticeship starts were created for young people.

In Germany, which has one of the most successful systems in the world, there are 570,000 annual apprenticeship starts for young people alone, 90 per cent of which are at level 3 or above.

The trust claims a move to three-year apprenticeships on a German scale could boost the economy by £8 billion a year and reduce public spending by £2.5 billion.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said the analysis points the way forward for politicians and policymakers to make “real apprenticeships” the norm.

“England’s patchwork vocational system not only hinders our economic performance, it prevents hundreds of thousands of young people from gaining good job skills,” he said.

“We need a step change in the provision of real apprenticeships for all occupations from bankers to bakers and a revolution in how they are regarded in society.”

However, the Association of Colleges said creating so many more apprenticeships would be a “massive challenge”, and it is not convinced the UK could simply import the German model for apprenticeships.

The government said it is already radically reforming them to drive up standards and make them more rigorous and responsive to the needs of employers.

A spokesman said: “Since 2010 over a million people have become apprentices, providing a great start to their careers. We have already insisted that apprenticeships last for a minimum of a year, include more English and maths and that every apprenticeship is a job.

“We have consulted on wider reforms to drive up standards in apprenticeships further, and will publish plans later this month.”

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