Lots more young people are starting apprenticeships, but too few progress to the higher levels in the systemby Lee Elliot Major / November 30, 2017 / Leave a comment
After many years of neglect, it has been heartening to see the government’s recent focus on apprenticeships. It says that it wants to see three million more by 2020 and in April of this year introduced a levy, so any employer with of wage bill of over £3m has to pay 0.5 per cent towards training for apprenticeships.
Still, too often in the UK vocational qualifications are seen as “second best,” while in countries like Germany and Switzerland, as I have seen first-hand, apprenticeships have as high a status as university degrees. High quality and high status go hand in hand. We still have a long way to go to emulate the best apprenticeship systems on the continent.
While recent policies have been targeted at increasing the numbers of apprenticeships on offer, we need to look at the quality. For apprenticeships to be genuine paths to success for young people, they must be high-quality, focused on increasing the skills of the apprentice, and must also facilitate further progression. Too many apprenticeships in this country are at level two (GCSE level), with no straightforward path towards higher levels. Too many apprenticeships are box-ticking exercises for companies who wish to accredit the existing skills of current staff.
For apprenticeships to provide a real path to social mobility, we need more high-quality apprenticeships targeted at young people. We also need to have automatic and smooth progression from level two to level three, or GCSE to A level standard. While the growth of higher and degree-level apprenticeships in recent years has been welcome, we need a much faster expansion of these places. There are fewer than 8,000 higher and degree level apprenticeshi…