The Government has announced plans to expand and strengthen apprenticeships in the UK with the target of one on five young people becoming apprentices within a decade. The aim is to make apprenticeships a mainstream option for 16-18 year-olds, alongside other education and training routes, and to ensure that an apprenticeship place is available for all qualified young people by 2013, with significant growth in apprenticeships for older learners as well.
Announcing the plan, John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, said that "in this rapidly changing world, Britain will only succeed if we develop the skills of our people to the fullest possible extent. Apprenticeships have a key role to play.
"This plan details not only how the expansion in numbers will be delivered, but also how the quality can be improved to ensure apprenticeships can be a mainstream option for more of our workforce and help secure a prosperous future for the whole country.
"Over the past decade," he continued, "we have more than doubled the number of young people and adults starting apprenticeships. Building on that, over the period to 2020, we project that apprenticeship starts will increase to at least 250,000 per year.
"The number of young people and adults successfully completing apprenticeships has risen from around 40,000 in 2001/02 to over 100,000 per year now," Denham (above) added. "We project that the number successfully completing will rise further to around 190,000 per year in 2020."
Over the ten-year period from 2001/02 to 2010/11, the Government predicts that more than 900,000 young people and adults will have completed an apprenticeship, and that by 2020 this figure will be over two million.
Ed Balls, Secretary of State for the Department for Children, Schools and Families, wants apprenticeships to become a popular option for 16–18 year-olds. "In order to do this," he says, "we will increase the number of 16-18 apprenticeships by 90,000 by 2013 and ensure there is a place for every suitably qualified young person who wants one. This will play a major part in our objective to raise the participation age to 18."
The proportion of people successfully completing apprenticeships and moving on to become skilled, productive employees has risen from 24% in 2001 to 63% today. The Government aims to equal the success rates of the best apprenticeships in the world by raising the figure to 70% or more. By doing this and by increasing the numbers of employers that offer places, the apprenticeships system will be able to add more than two million skilled and qualified apprentices into the workforce over the period 2001/02 to 2020.
The new plan follows a Government announcement last November of substantial increases in funding to expand the Apprenticeship programme over the next three years for both young people and adults. The recent announcement sets out how that expansion will be delivered, how the quality of apprenticeships will be improved, and how better support will be offered to employers providing high-quality apprenticeship places.
The new measures include:
º a National Apprenticeship Service to lead the expansion and improvement of the apprenticeship programme;
º action to make it easier for employers to improve the range of apprenticeships by, for example, allowing them to include their own accredited qualifications;
º a pilot wage subsidy programme for small businesses, to make it more attractive for them to offer high quality apprenticeship places; and
º examining how to use public procurement to encourage companies that benefit from significant Government-funded contracts to offer apprenticeships as a way of meeting their responsibility to train and develop their staff.
EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation is backing the Governemnt’s Apprenticeship plans. "This review is a step forward and we welcome many of the proposals contained in the strategy," says EEF Chairman, Martin Temple. "However, it is essential we get the speedy implementation of some of the key recommendations if the government’s ambitious targets for 2020 are to be met."
In particular, EEF believes there should be responsive funding for apprentices of all ages, including a commitment to fund mature apprenticeships and a clarification of how apprenticeships fit with diplomas, higher education and other qualifications. It adds that the framework also needs to be flexible enough to open up apprenticeships to broader range of companies.
The Government’s apprenticeship plans can be downloaded from