Rules tightend for apprentices

Published: 09 May 2012


Sheffield Council leader, Julie Dore, centre, with apprentices Awais Zulfiqar, left, and Albaney Cummings, right, who are on Visual Merchandising apprenticeships. A Source spokesman said all of their 800 apprentices were on courses lasting a minimum of a year.

APPRENTICESHIPS that only last a few weeks will be killed off after the Government announced radical plans to drive up standards.

From August they must last a minimum of 12 months – and only people in a new job, or new role with the same employer, can start one.

The aim is shore up the reputation of courses which have been hit by criticism over quality, public money being poured into private schemes, and employers receiving free training for long-serving staff.

In 2011, the Government spent £1bn to create more than 450,000 apprenticeships, a 63 per cent rise on the previous year, with the aim of creating new jobs and developing skills.

Nick Linford, managing editor of FE Week, said the new rules would see a number of courses disappear and the gold rush for some training providers was over.

He added: “Training providers receive a fixed sum for each apprentice, they don’t want to ask the employer for money, so courses have become shorter and we’ve ended up needing this policy.

“Now, the gold rush is coming to an end. I think standards will go up because an important part of the quality of an apprenticeship is being an employee. But it won’t guarantee the teaching is any better.”

In March, local employers told a Parliamentary Select Committee hearing in South Yorkshire that commercial apprentice training was “appalling”.

Richard Cook, manufacturing and personnel director at Rotherham company AESSEAL, said the word ‘apprenticeship’ had been devalued in many people’s eyes.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the rules were being changed to “raise the bar on standards” amongst UK apprenticeship schemes.

“The majority of apprenticeships are the gold standard in vocational training, ” said skills minister John Hayes. “They boost individuals’ life chances and build the skills that drive growth.

“But we must be relentless in our drive to ensure all apprenticeships are as good as the best and to identify and root out any instances of poor quality provision,” he added.

The new standards will come into force for all age groups from August 2012, subject to consultation with providers and employers. For those aged 19 and over apprenticeships will last between one and four years unless prior learning or attainment has been recorded. Apprenticeships for 16- 18-year-olds will last a minimum of 12 months without exception.

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Paul Champion
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