08 June 2015

Apprenticeships were introduced initially in 1964 as a method to combat a shortage of skilled labour within the market and have been a source of debate for a number of years. Are they worth it? Is it appealing enough? Do they benefit businesses? Are they used in the most productive way? Do apprenticeships lead to full time careers? The aim was to ensure enough training was available at all levels and improve quality and volume of training given to staff.

The UK apprenticeship scheme was seen the time of the 2008 recession as vital in the countries recovery. The validity of such a statement is questionable. According to the official apprenticeships website "72% of businesses report improved productivity as a result of employing an apprentice" and it also claims that "Apprenticeships develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce."

Asking people within business we concluded different results.

In fact businesses contacted for this blog, disagree. They claim that the applicants for the apprentices are of a poor standard and do not meet the skill set required for that role. The blame is being aimed at the education system, with many believing that by the age of 16 someone should be skilled enough straight from the classroom and that possibly the failure to identify people’s potential in vocational jobs at an earlier age might be to blame. Also there is a debate of the overuse of qualifications that are handed out which cloud the issue, such as B-Tec, GNVQ’s etc. Are they worth it? Do employers value them when looking to hire staff? The answer we have had is not really.

The concept of an apprenticeship must be to create in house staff who are trained to specific roles within a certain company. However some companies use the apprenticeship scheme to their own advantage by using short term apprentices for financial assistance in training etc.  Morrison’s came until scrutiny in 2012 for receiving funding for apprentice shelf stackers and claimed 6 months’ worth of funding for the roles, which drew criticism nationally, this is seen as Morrison’s de-valuing the meaning of ‘apprentice.’

Is the apprenticeship scheme being used the way the government intended then? As outlined in the economist. Are some companies do make the most of apprenticeships, in Germany an apprenticeship will last three years and will typically be one day a week in a class/ study involvement. Perhaps the issue is UK employers not offering the sufficient amount of training or support to the young people who choose these roles, but maybe the motivation of a number of people will never be adequate enough to be successful in the job whether that’s money, or the career prospects associated.     

The lack of skilled workers within the UK is the reason that apprenticeships prove a popular concept, you can hire a young person hungry to learn your trade and be a success for your company, you receive financial support whilst they train and you are aiding the UK’s youth get into work. On the other hand with a mix of poor candidates for apprenticeships, poor screening of candidates and an poor success rate of getting apprentices into to full time work, one has to ask ‘Are apprenticeships a worthwhile option for businesses the way the system is run’?.

Another concern in the UK is the increasing number of over 25’s becoming apprentices, out of 851,000 apprentices in the UK, over 350,000 are over 25 and 50,000 over 50 years old. The concern here is that apprenticeships are losing their focus on young people who may be entering the workforce, instead it’s merely providing an opportunity for companies to gain funding for training for people where they would have to meet the costs themselves anyway. Apprenticeship programmes provide the full cost of training for 16-18 year olds and 50% for their older counterparts. There are also fears that the government may be playing a numbers game with apprenticeships and that they are attempting to meet targets numbers over developing real skills. Teresa Frith, senior skills policy manager at the Association of Colleges said: “The fact there are 50,000 apprentices aged over 50 is not a bad thing in itself but the government needs to be sure that the training being provided is genuinely meeting the needs of the individual as well as their employer …  Apprenticeships should be about providing worthwhile training, not hitting Whitehall targets.”

Case by case seems to be the result of apprenticeships. What’s your experiences? Email