Apprenticeships in computer skills are 20 times more popular in Germany than in Britain, a study reveals.
Fewer than 1,000 young people a year begin technical apprenticeships in information and communications technology in the UK, compared with some 20,000 in Germany. At degree level the situation is reversed. In 2001 there were 6,000 German computer science graduates; in the UK the figure was 20,000.
But leading academics who compiled the report suggest on-the-job training is more useful to firms than a university course.
Hilary Steedman, senior research fellow for the Centre of Economic Perfomance, said: "The apprentice is training on the job in the latest applications the company is using. At university, the applications they are learning may not be as up to date.
The stark contrast between ICT training in the two nations highlights how modern apprenticeships are still undervalued in the UK, her report says. It claims that the high number of ICT apprenticeships in Germany is "a rational response to skill shortages".
The British failure to adopt such a rational approach to plugging the ICT skills gap reflects a failure to get firms involved in modern apprenticeships, the report adds.
The study, funded by the Anglo-German Foundation, is based on published statistical sources and interviews with some 90 firms in Britain and Germany.
Dr Steedman also says that in Germany vocational training seems more relevant to employers' needs, as apprenticeships can fit training into companies' existing projects.
The report says that in Germany firms have worked together to "bypass" universities and create work-based training that offers the prospect of creating huge numbers of highly-skilled ICT employees.
Some 60,000 are in training, mostly at work. They will constitute a large pool of work-ready employees trained at lower cost than graduates, it states.
The Impact on Firms of ICT Skill-Supply Strategies: An Anglo-German Comparison, can be found on the Centre of Economic Performance web site at http:cep.lse.ac.uk