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OECD: Apprenticeships in England lack 'quality assurance'

Apprentices in England are being given between eight and 12 times less general education throughout their training than their counterparts in leading European countries

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Apprentices in England are being given between eight and 12 times less general education throughout their training than their counterparts in leading European countries

Apprenticeships in England are lacking in quality assurance – a situation that is adding to the risk that employers would substitute apprentices for unskilled workers, according to a new report.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Apprenticeship in England report says the government’s reforms of the apprenticeship system are “impressive”, but still face many challenges.

The report finds that apprenticeship workplace training in England is not systematic and is subject to little quality assurance. A lack of standards with regard to training in workplaces increases the risk that employers will substitute apprentices for unskilled workers, it states.

English apprenticeship programmes devote much less time to general education, including maths and English, than those in countries with world-leading apprenticeship programmes, says the OECD.

English apprentices receive 50-100 hours of general education over the course of their apprenticeship, and general education is only mandatory for those who do not meet the minimum requirements. This compares with about 400 hours of general education, covering a range of subjects, in German and Swiss apprenticeships, and nearly 600 hours in Norwegian apprenticeships.

A spokesperson for the OECD said: “England has committed itself to a very ambitious programme to develop apprenticeships, but still faces many challenges to effectively implement current reforms and develop a world-class apprenticeship system.”

Recommendations

The report recommends that the government should:

  • Increase the amount of general education in apprenticeships for young people.

  • Support systematic provision of training in workplaces.

  • Keep apprenticeship qualifications sufficiently broad and few in number.

  • Review current plans for competition in the assessment market.

  • Provide pre-apprenticeship and alternative apprenticeship programmes that effectively prepare disadvantaged young people to undertake full apprenticeship programmes.

  • Ensure that all degree apprenticeships include a substantial element of work-based learning with an employer.

20 per cent off the job training

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want to see people of all ages and backgrounds getting the excellent training they need to succeed in a wide range of jobs, and we are changing the apprenticeship system to do just that.

“Under our reforms, all apprenticeships must be real paid jobs, with at least 20 per cent off the job-training. They must also include English and maths for those who haven’t achieved good GCSEs in those subjects.

“We’re pleased to see an increase in people starting our new, higher-quality apprenticeships, designed by employers themselves, to give people and businesses the skills they really need.”

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