EAL has backed government moves to tackle poor quality apprenticeships, after an independent survey revealed that 57% of industry employers are concerned about damage to the reputation of apprenticeship programmes.
Since the abolition of Train to Gain, questions have been raised about whether some of the schemes badged as ‘apprenticeships’ to secure funding meet the standard expected of apprentice training. 28.8% of employers questioned were worried about the negative impact on the Apprenticeships brand, with a further 28.6% saying damage has already been done.
Coverage including the BBC’s Panorama programme, ‘The great apprentice scandal’, has cited examples of short duration programmes offering little benefit in terms of skills and employment prospects. The National Apprenticeship Service has since published its Quality Action Plan to address issues relating to quality, content and delivery, following skills minister John Hayes MP’s announcement that apprenticeships will last for a minimum of 12 months for all age groups from August 2012.
While 30% of employers surveyed felt that some flexibility is needed to suit different industries and apprentices of varying ages, nearly 50 per cent agreed that all apprenticeships should last for a minimum period of time to be worthy of the Apprenticeship name.
The independent survey was carried out on behalf of EAL, the specialist awarding organisation for industry qualifications. It polled 500 managing directors and those responsible for HR and training at companies across engineering, manufacturing, building services, construction, energy and utilities, and environmental services.
Commenting on the findings, EAL managing director, Ann Watson, said: “The dramatic increase in apprenticeships means there is now more need than ever for constructive debate around quality, investment and support, for young people in particular. Rooting out the minority of programmes that do not meet certain standards is vital, and the government has shown its willingness to tackle these issues.
“In the meantime, it would be entirely wrong to overlook the many positive experiences that Apprenticeship training offers individuals and their employers. Apprenticeships have a long legacy in engineering and manufacturing of providing a gold standard pathway into highly-skilled jobs. The respect they have from employers, and the resulting demand for places, are precisely because of the high-quality, rigorous training industry apprenticeships provide.
”A balanced argument is needed during this time of change and evolution, to show both learners and businesses, as well as the general public, that an Apprenticeship is a worthwhile option that can lead to and support fulfilling, long-term employment.”
Gary Griffiths, head of apprenticeship programmes for Airbus in the UK, said: “The quality and duration of apprenticeships has always been of great importance to Airbus, which fully recognises the importance of high quality training schemes and runs award winning apprenticeship programmes.
“Our sector has always required both robust and meaningful apprenticeships that contain appropriate academic standards underpinning vocational qualifications for every level of apprenticeship.”