And so, what happened back in March?
Apprenticeship Week meant that there was an array of events and announcements from the government. Nick Clegg was seen working alongside construction apprentices building a wall and students in Derby giving their local church and community centre a facelift were featured in FE Week. I attended two conferences, both of which had some thought provoking speakers.
Three key issues were featured at the conferences I attended. Lord Adonis lamented the lack of employer engagement in training apprentices, and was scathing about the number of organisations that do not offer apprenticeships, despite the support from government funding and clear benefits. He presented some alarming statistics. Large employers dominate the take-up, as you would expect, and one of the key industries to have embraced apprenticeships is the finance sector. PWC is a leading advocate and recruits hundreds each year as part of a managed and focused career path providing a model of good practice. Contrast this with government behaviour; you might expect that within the government, BIS, the department that is responsible for apprentices would be packed full of them. BIS employ 2400 people. So how many apprentices do they have? 100? 200? No, they have just 19 apprentices! Compare this with Siemens who recruit 10,000 apprentices each year.
The second issue was that apprenticeships, as we know them, would not be recognised by other parts of Europe. In the current model occupational training allows companies to access public funding for something they ought to be self-funding. More of that in another blog!
This moves me onto the third issue, which focused on attitude. There are about one million apprenticeships in Germany, compared with only half that number in England. They range from craft apprenticeships in baking, construction, health and social care, to engineering and accountancy. There is a clear commitment from the employers to train young people, who can apply for the positions up to a year in advance. It is not seen as an imposition, it’s regarded as part of the employer/government shared responsibly. Apprentices usually spend three or four days a week working in a company where they acquire their practical skills and. educational training. The remaining one or two days are spent at a vocational school or technical college, where they receive their technical underpinning training. Typically apprenticeships last two or three years, during which time apprentices receive a training allowance about £500 a month. When they have completed their training apprentices are usually taken on as permanent employees. It has been estimated that the typical cost to an employer is around £65,000. This is in sharp contrast to some of the stories we hear of UK employers who sometimes seem reluctant to release apprentices for training, which it often fully funded by the taxpayer!
In Germany the qualifications that an apprentice takes are determined by trade bodies and are assessed by a terminal examination. This includes maths and English, and guess what, apprentices often find these subjects challenging!
And the results. In Germany youth unemployment is about 8%. In the UK, it’s closer to 25%
The coalition government clearly wishes to emulate the German model and to continue on a path that promotes the parity of an apprenticeship with taking a degree. There were several announcements last month that should help to move this forward. Schools will be required to give more information, advice and guidance to ensure that pupils and their parents know and understand the value of an apprenticeship. Also there will be a requirement for schools to publish destination data, so that the government can monitor the take up of vocational training. A UCAS type website with opportunities for post-16 training is proposed and more work will be undertaken on how Traineeships can be used as stepping stones to apprenticeships.
Several new Oxford titles due out this September focus on craft training and support apprenticeship training: Plastering and Painting & Decorating both cover Levels 1, 2, and 3 of the new Cskills Awards Construction Diplomas