Arnold Clark: More than 80 per cent of apprentice applicants ‘unemployable’
By Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor
Last Updated: 11:05AM BST 22/05/2012
More than four-fifths of school leavers applying for apprenticeships are “unemployable” and some college courses are so bad they amount to “state-sponsored babysitting”, one of Scotland’s largest companies has said.
The training arm of the Arnold Clark motoring group has told MSPs that 1,850 of the 2,280 youngsters who applied to be an apprentice with the company last year were judged to be “not employable at all.”
Many displayed “shock” at the length of their working day because they were used to spending a maximum of 18 hours per week in the classroom or even fewer if they attended college, the company said.
With Scotland in the grip of a youth unemployment crisis, the company said some college courses are so ineffective they amount to “state-sponsored babysitting” instead of targeted vocational training that would guarantee a job at the end.
Among the other flaws highlighted were applicants’ poor attitude and communication skills, a lack of understanding of the standards expected and a “culture of wholly unrealistic expectations”.
This was compounded by their “inability to make a decision based on anything other than ‘I want!’” and a “zero understanding” of the negative consequences of their actions. Most of the youngsters also had “no concept of citizenship”.
The damning indictment by part of the Arnold Clark empire of car dealerships, which started in Scotland and has an annual turnover of more £2 billion, last night prompted more questions about the country’s education system.
Opposition politicians said Mike Russell, the SNP Education Minister, and Angela Constance, the Youth Unemployment Minister, must start listening to employers. The latest official figures show more than a fifth of young people are out of work.
GTG Training, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Arnold Clark that oversees the group’s apprenticeship programme and all internal training, said more needs to be done to prevent the “unsaved majority” experiencing a lifetime on the dole.
In a submission to Holyrood’s finance committee, which is investigating youth employability, the company concluded: “It is desperately sad and thoroughly disheartening to hear professional recruiters with 20-plus years experience of employing school leavers describe young Scots as unsuitable for any employment.
“Yet, that was the case for 81 per cent of our applicants.” The company, which took on 121 apprentices last year, said the single largest problem was the difference in working hours from school to employment.
The average youngster wanting an apprenticeship with Arnold Clark described a “maximum of 18 hours in class per week, extended holidays and little or no access to extra-curricular activities.”
Their concept of what consists of a ‘working week’ was found to have deteriorated even further if they enter further education.
“We are increasingly concerned at the State-Sponsored Babysitting nature of some college programmes rather than the specifically-targeted vocational training … we believe taxpayers’ money should be being spent on,” the motoring group said.
GTG Training urged ministers to involve the quango Creative Scotland, which oversees the creative arts, to try and “engage” youngsters. The company suggested that having businessmen or academics carry out this role would not work.
SNP ministers have pledged to tackle the youth unemployment epidemic by creating 25,000 modern apprenticeships a year, with all 16 to 19-year-olds offered a learning or training place.
But Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour’s youth employment spokesperson, said efforts to tackle youth unemployment had been undermined by cuts to college budgets.
“The SNP Government needs to listen to employers to ensure the young people leaving our schools, colleges and universities have the skills required to meet the demands of a tough labour market,” she said.
Liz Smith, Scottish Tory education spokesman, said: “It is very concerning to hear that many of our young people are lacking such basic attributes at a time when the economic conditions are so challenging.”
But Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said the company’s depiction did not match the young people he met, most of whom he said were “keen to work”.
A Scottish Executive spokesman said: “It’s wrong to generalise all young people on the basis of just one organisation’s experience.
“In fact a recent survey of employers by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills showed that companies recruiting young people straight from school, college and university were pleased with their skills and abilities.”
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