The government’s apprenticeship programme is a “hoax” treating young people as "one-dimensional beings", a senior University and College Union (UCU) official has told the union's annual congress in Brighton.
Launching a motion for the UCU to put forward its own charter for apprenticeships and jobs, Sean Vernell, a member of its national executive committee, told delegates that modern apprenticeships were not "real" like they once were – but were a "joke" – and that the majority did not result in "decent work”.
Mr Vernell said: “So all this essentially this motion is arguing is not that we don’t want apprenticeships – of course we want apprenticeships. But anybody who has got some grey hair – or is lacking it like I have – can probably remember the days when real apprenticeships meant," Mr Vernell said. "They were real ones. They were three years long. They would go into a workplace, a proper workplace, on a decent condition of service [...] They were real training [...] The idea that the government have got into offer today on real apprentices is a joke. The vast majority do not end up in decent work, the vast majority do not train anybody in the real sense [...] It is a hoax, a really bad hoax, which this government is trying to sell us."
He added: “We do want decent apprenticeships, and that’s what this motion puts – that [the] UCU should produce its own charter for jobs and apprenticeships. What it really should look like, what an apprenticeship should mean. That is what this is about."
'We do not want to straightjacket our young people'
Previously, Mr Vernell said that the government's apprenticeship programme "simply straightjackets" young people.
"The drive towards apprenticeships by the government, their figure of wanting to get, by 2020, three million new apprenticeships, has really driven – and is driving – the direction of travel in education," Mr Vernell said. "The first and real problem we have [...] is number one: our young people are not one-dimensional beings."
He added: "[...] They are round human beings like anybody else. We do not want a further education system that simply straightjackets our young people...".
Peter Monaghan, regional secretary of the UCU’s eastern and home counties committee, who also supported the motion, said that the UCU's future involvement in the apprenticeship programme would be “key” to its success.
Mr Monaghan said: “Certainly I would support the fact that apprenticeships shouldn’t be at the expense of a wider, broader curriculum, most definitely...and also I would say the key to the success of apprenticeships in the future is our involvement, not employers’ involvement, our involvement as unionists and educators.”
The motion was passed unanimously.