Minister comes under fire over North-East apprenticeships

8:00am Tuesday 14th February 2012 in

MINISTERS are under fire over claims about a huge rise in the number of apprenticeships across the region.

Figures obtained by The Northern Echo show that most of the rise is among older workers, rather than young people who have been hit hardest by rising unemployment.

Most of the apprenticeships are in health, care services, retail and business administration, with relatively few in traditional trades, such as engineering, manufacturing and construction.

Pat Glass, the Labour MP for North-West Durham, has accused the Government of “rebadging” existing shortterm training schemes and work placements to boast of a rise in apprenticeships.

She said: “Apprenticeships have a currency that people recognise – they should provide a career in areas such as engineering and construction.

Instead, what we are getting is short-term work placements in health, care and administration. I am not saying they are not worthwhile, but such learning used to be on the job.

“If you look behind the figures, there has been a huge increase in placements for over- 25s, while very little is being done for 16 to 19-year-olds, when there is rising youth unemployment.”

The figures, comparing 2010 and 2011, appear to show big increases in apprenticeships in the North-East (up from 18,510 to 34,550) and Yorkshire (from 36,530 to 55,800).

However, in both regions, most of the rise is explained by a surge in take-up among over-25s. The rise among under-19s was far smaller.

The statistics, from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, show that relatively few last year were apprentices in engineering and manufacturing (3,190 in the North-East and 7,070 in Yorkshire) or construction (2,530 and 3,450, respectively).

Those numbers were swamped by the numbers receiving in-work training in business, administration and law (11,230 and 15,660) and retail (8,250 and 13,170), in particular.

Ms Glass said the “rebadging”

was largely of people going through Labour’s Train To Gain scheme, which was axed by the Coalition.

The companies offering training to the most people included BT, Capita Group, Tesco and McDonald’s.

Skills Minister John Hayes said the Government was making unprecedented investment that was making apprenticeships the “gold standard in vocational training”.

He said: “The National Audit Office said that for every £1 of taxpayers’ money, apprenticeships generate £18 for the wider economy, undeniably boosting economic growth and providing new life chances for young and older learners.

“The average apprenticeship lasts more than 12 months and entails a rigorous period of job-relevant training.

Those training providers that do not meet the high standards learners deserve are having their funding withdrawn.”

Paul Champion
07540 704920

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Twitter: @champouk

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