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Home > News > May 2004 > 12-May-2004

New apprenticeships will widen opportunity and boost business - Clarke

Education and Skills Secretary Charles Clarke and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown have announced radical reforms to Apprenticeships designed to ensure more young people will get the opportunity to learn skills.

Announcing the new ‘Young Apprenticeships' Mr Clarke said that the reforms will be a major boost to business and productivity. Working through the Sector Skills Councils, employers will also be put in the driving seat in terms of the design and development of Apprenticeships.

Speaking at the Apprenticeships launch at London's flagship Selfridges department store on Monday with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Education and Skills Secretary Charles Clarke said: "Apprenticeships are one of the best ways we can fill our skills gaps. They provide young people and adults with an ‘on the job' training experience which gives them the direct skills needed in the workforce.

"I am delighted that many leading businesses are today committing themselves to Apprenticeships. But we need more employers to get involved which is why the Learning and Skills Council is today launching a specific marketing and advertising campaign to get more employers on board.

"The new ‘Young Apprenticeships' represents one of the most exciting developments for young people since the introduction of GCSEs in 1986 and fits in with Mike Tomlinson's work on 14-19 reform. It will mean that motivated and able pupils could spend up to two days a week learning ‘on the job' skills in a workplace. This will be an exciting prospect for any pupil wanting to pursue industry specific vocational programmes on top of the core national curriculum."

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown said: "The Government is strongly committed to expanding and improving the Apprenticeship programme in this country, which will aid the push towards our objective of full employment.

"Apprenticeships, which were dying a few years ago, have now already risen to 255,500 in England. We must work in partnership - employers, individuals and Government - to ensure that even more businesses and even more young people are benefiting by the end of the decade through this new Apprenticeships offer, which is testament to the growing and central importance of education, training and skills to the whole future of the British economy."

The reforms to Apprenticeships will be backed up by a targeted campaign encouraging more employers to ‘get on board' and boost the UK's record number of Apprentices even further.

The reforms will deliver a more flexible, stronger Apprenticeship ‘ladder of opportunity' beginning at the age of 14. These improvements will consist of:

  • Brand new 'Young Apprenticeships' for 14-16 year olds. They will be a high quality opportunity for motivated pupils who could spend up to two days a week in the workplace learning a trade. Initial opportunities will be in engineering, automotive industries, business administration, logistics, and the arts and creative industries
  • A 'Pre-Apprenticeship' offer. This will be based around the very popular ‘Entry to Employment' programme for young people that have potential but are not yet ready or able to enter an Apprenticeship or maybe currently disengaged and disenfranchised from learning
  • 'Apprenticeships' at level 2 (replacing the Foundation Modern Apprenticeship)
  • 'Advanced Apprenticeships' (equal to 2 good A Levels or Level 3 qualification and replacing the Advanced Modern Apprenticeship)
  • Opening up of 'Apprenticeships' to adults by scrapping the arbitrary 25 year old age limit. Development work will begin immediately with the licensed Sector Skills Councils

With demand from young people outstripping the supply of places on offer from employers, the launch will be backed up by a major Learning and Skills Council advertising and marketing campaign targeted at increasing the number of employers offering places.

Charles Clarke added: "We now have a record 255,500 studying Modern Apprenticeships up from 75,800 trainees in 1997. Although we have around a third of school leavers going on to university people forget that around a quarter of all 16 year olds have at least started a Modern Apprenticeship by 21.

"Employers need to know that they will now be in the driving seat. Working through Sector Skills Councils, they will now have more input into the design and development of Apprenticeships. They will help develop greater ‘portability' so that an Apprentice can take a part completed Apprenticeship with them if they move employer. This is exactly the sort of flexibility that employers have been crying out for - and we have responded."

Bryan Sanderson, Chairman of the Learning and Skills Council said: "A recent survey by the Learning and Skills Council showed that 44% of organisations who reported skills shortages, said they lost business as a result. There is no excuse for a poorly trained workforce. Apprenticeships provide businesses with the solution they need to thrive in the 21st century. I hope many employers respond to this ‘call to arms' and join the Apprenticeships revolution. We now have a real chance to remove the skills deficit and improve productivity."

The Apprenticeship Task Force welcomed the improved Apprenticeships programme. Sir Roy Gardner, Apprenticeship Task Force Chairman and Chief Executive of Centrica plc, said: "A record number of young people are making an enhanced contribution to their employers' success by raising their skill levels, motivation and productivity. We want to encourage more business leaders to consider the value Apprenticeships would bring to their businesses."

The Learning and Skills Council working with employer organisations will drive forward the new reforms to make sure they are fit for purpose and meet employers' needs. The Learning and Skills Council will:

  • Give employers via the Sector Skills Councils a bigger role in the actual design, content and entry requirements of ‘Apprenticeships'
  • Develop greater ‘portability' arrangements so that an Apprentice can take a part completed Apprenticeship with them if they move employer
  • Create a ‘clearing house' for school leavers. This will match prospective trainees to employers, providing for aspiring apprentices what the UCAS clearing system provides for aspiring students
  • Work towards awarding ‘Accredited' status for those who successfully complete an Apprenticeship. At present an Apprenticeship is not a recognised qualification in its own right
  • Wxplore the development of credit-based qualifications in Apprenticeships to better meet the needs of employers
  • Review financial incentives for apprentices to maintain the attractiveness of the Apprenticeships programme
  • Consider financial incentives to encourage more small and medium sized employers to get on board
  • Will introduce an eight week probationary period for the trainee and employer

Skills for Business, the new employer-led network of Sector Skills Councils, welcomed the reform of apprenticeships, but warned that the system needs to be led by employers if it is to be successful.

Christopher Duff, Chief Executive of Skills for Business, said: "Today's announcements are a high-level endorsement by the government of the importance of work-related education and the need for a much greater emphasis on skills. We are pleased with this major new drive to provide all employers with the highly skilled young people they need. But it remains absolutely vital that employers are in the driving seat when it comes to designing and implementing these reforms, as only they can really know what skills their workforce needs, both now and in the future.

"Employers have been saying for many years that a ‘one size fits all' approach to education and training just does not work - the needs of a small retailer, for example, are quite different to those of a multinational engineering company. The reforms announced today stress the need for flexibility in the shaping of apprenticeships to meet the different workforce development needs of different sectors. We now need to work with the government and other agencies to ensure that the good intentions voiced today are translated into practical action and that the skills employers are crying out for to boost their bottom line and improve services are the ones which the public education and training system delivers."

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