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Apprenticeship growth plans put under scrutiny

An inquiry has been launched in the Government’s target to create three million apprenticeships by 2020.

The Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy has set up the inquiry look at how the Government proposes to achieve this target and how it may affect industries with a skills shortage.

The group will also look at how standards in the apprenticeship system can be maintained and enforced and will also consider the proposals for the new apprenticeships levy first reported in the summer Budget, which will see employers with a wage bill of more than £3 million pay a 0.5% tax to fund apprenticeships from April 2017 onwards.

Following the launch of the inquiry, Steve Nash, chief executive of the Institute of the Motor Industry, the sector skills and awards body, has written to the chair of the sub-committee to offer its extensive research into the issue.

He will also place the IMI apprenticeship experts at the disposal of the committee.

“There are many good initiatives at work to encourage young people to consider apprenticeships as part of their continuing education,” said Nash. 

“But, currently, with no formal careers advice in schools, young people aren’t getting the direction they need to make the best choices for their future.

“There is a real conflict of interest between schools holding onto 16 -18 year old pupils to bolster their funding and the clearly stated desire by government to see more taking the apprenticeship route.

“We therefore welcome the opportunity to provide our research and expertise to the inquiry.”

Research commissioned by the IMI last year revealed a concern amongst training providers and businesses with training academies in England regarding the Government’s plans to increase apprentice numbers by 2020.

Further Education colleges and businesses believe they will struggle to recruit the numbers and quality of apprentices they need to sustain economic growth over the next five years. Education cuts, poor careers advice, and schools keeping pupils on to maintain funding, are all identified as contributing factors.

The survey, conducted by the IMI, found that the majority of training providers welcomed the Government’s ambition to increase apprenticeships to 3m but feared other policies will make it impossible to achieve. 

78% of respondents said that careers advice, which has been provided in schools on an ad hoc basis since 2012, is at best unhelpful. Only 10% think advice offered by the National Careers Service has any impact on apprentice recruitment.

“We feel very positive about the government’s stated commitment to ensure young people are inspired and supported to make the right career choices, including apprenticeships”, added Nash.

“But there is still, currently, a big challenge in persuading schools that apprenticeships are a route they can suggest to their students. The inquiry will throw a welcome spotlight on the issues.”

The retail motor industry needs 12,000 apprentices a year to stand still, Nash said.

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