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Demand for overhaul of apprenticeship system
A RADICAL overhaul of England’s confusing apprenticeship system is needed to stop young people being offered practical qualifications that have little worth, a study says.
Compared with other European countries, many apprenticeships are low quality and too short, according to a study commissioned by The Sutton Trust.
It suggests that hundreds of thousands of apprenticeships need to be created for young people each year to boost the economy and improve job prospects.
The study, by the Boston Consulting Group, says that at the moment, fewer than 200,000 of the 520,000 apprenticeships starting in England each year are at level three, which is equivalent to A-level.
Only 61,000 new apprenticeship starts were for young people, whereas in Germany – which the report says is considered to have one of the best vocational education systems – 570,000 new apprenticeships are for young people and 90 per cent are equivalent to Alevels.
At the same time, England’s vocational system has 18,000 different qualifications, while Germany has 330.
The report warns that since 2010, more than half of apprenticeships have been below level three, and threequarters have been aimed at over-25s, many of them in work.
It also cites figures which show that 11 young people are fighting for each apprenticeship, and that apprenticeships are offered by only one in five English employers, compared with half in Germany.
Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said the report had found that, with some exceptions, the opportunities on offer to young people who do not go to university were poor.
He said: ‘‘Instead of a clear system of respected vocational routes, we suffer from a complicated patchwork where too many young people are offered qualifications of little worth in a system that confuses employers and is not valued as it should be by society.’’ He said that the ‘‘cruel deception’’ about an expansion in apprenticeships, when many are below level three and the majority go to older workers, had to stop.
The report calls for apprenticeships to be radically expanded, with up to 300,000 new starts each year. The majority of these should be at level three at least for three years, with some four-year courses at level four, higher than A-levels.
Sir Peter said: ‘‘Real apprenticeships are as important to social mobility as good university degrees.
‘‘Students facing huge loans for a university education find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
‘‘Even if they would prefer to work with training, the lack of good apprenticeships means they feel they have little choice..’’
SINCE the Foundation for Jobs was launched in January last year to tackle nyouth unemployment, it has worked with 1,900 young people, aged up to 24, in Darlington.
The joint initiative involves The Northern Echo, Darlington Borough Council and the Darlington Partnership of private firms and public sector organisations, and has enjoyed support from businesses and industrialists across the North-East region.
In its first 18 months, the partnership has created 143 apprentices, helped 1,558 schoolchildren to build closer links with industry and allowed 167 young people to take part in internships or eight-week work experience placements.
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