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Wrongful use of 'apprenticeship' title could mean prosecution for training providers

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Training providers could be prosecuted and fined if they misuse the term “apprenticeship”  under new legislation being proposed by the government.

Ministers are keen to crack down on “unscrupulous” providers tarnishing the brand by mislabelling other training provision as apprenticeships.

A consultation launched today by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills says the government is concerned that there may be a “temptation” to apply the term apprenticeship to lower-quality courses to make them seem more attractive.

It fears this could “dilute the apprenticeship brand”, affect the reputation of other training providers and result in negative experiences for those taking the courses.

It proposes to create an offence that would prohibit anyone using the term “apprenticeship” or “apprentice” in relation to any course or training in England, unless it is in relation to a government-funded apprenticeship.

“This would not affect employers, who would be free to offer any training to their own employees and apprentices (including those with contracts of apprenticeship),” it adds.

The document says a breach of the measure would result in a penalty, and the government is currently determining what form an appropriate sanction and enforcement regime may take.

It says the “overwhelming majority” of training providers will want to comply with the new legislation and it envisages a “light-touch approach” to enforcement.

“However, a deterrent is necessary in case of non-compliance,” it adds.

“We propose that the maximum penalty would be a fine following prosecution in the Magistrates’ Court.”

But Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, questioned the need for legislation.

“I don’t think the issue is large enough to warrant legislation,” he told TES. “Clearly there needs to be some control over the term ‘apprenticeship’ but not through legislation. There may be some specific cases [of abuse]but they can be managed without this.”

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