From education to employment

“Apprenticeships offer a high quality route to a successful career after GCSEs, but only if young

Training leaders have said today that meeting the Government’s target of 500,000 Apprentices by 2020 will be extremely challenging unless ministers urgently address the way schools offer information and guidance on post-GCSE academic and vocational learning options.

In July, the House of Lords select committee on economic affairs, with two former chancellors and former governor of the Bank of England among its members, identified Apprenticeships as the best route to skills for young people not initially intending to pursue university education. Apprenticeship completion rates in the UK are now above 60% and continually improving towards the benchmark set by Germany and other European nations which have historically valued vocational learning as much as academic education.

The Lords committee said that current post-16 funding is far too lopsided against work based learning and Apprenticeships. It pointed to anecdotal evidence from employers such as BT which suggests that demand for Apprenticeships from young people far outstrips available places.

Guidance system overlooks apprenticeships

The peers strongly criticised the current Information, Advice and Guidance system in our schools as being biased against Apprenticeships ““ a view that has long been shared by the Association of Learning Providers (ALP) and other stakeholders in the education and training system. More often than not, according to the committee’s report, young people only learn about Apprenticeships from other sources of information which means that many other students and parents never hear about them at all.

ALP, whose members provide some 80% of the country’s apprenticeships, believes that the guidance issue could become even more serious as a result of recent government reforms to disband its nationally-operated Connexions service and devolve responsibility for guidance to LEAs and schools. With pressure, for example, to fill places in sixth forms and teachers unaware of the advantages of Apprenticeships, young people in some areas of the country may be less likely to receive well-informed and unbiased advice about their post-GCSE options.

Graham Hoyle, ALP’s chief executive, said: “Ministers have said that during the last election they were confronted on the hustings by people saying “why don”t you bring back Apprenticeships?” when the modern version of the programme had been around for ten years. As the Lords” committee has confirmed, the ignorance about this highly valued form of vocational learning stems mainly from failings in England’s education and careers guidance system.

“We would like Ed Balls to undertake a complete review of the latest reforms for England, taking note of the all-age and unbiased systems that work well in Scotland and Wales. Failing that, Ofsted should be given a strong brief to ensure that advice in English schools on post-GCSE options is of high quality and completely in the interests of the students themselves.”

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