From education to employment

Should young apprentices be afraid of the Wolf Report?

As the Sector Skills Council for the active leisure, learning and wellbeing sector, SkillsActive challenges a number of statements and concerns raised by Professor Wolf in her recent report, The Future of Vocational Education.

Professor Wolf included a view that:

  • The value-for-money of the YA programme is questionable
  • Apprenticeships crowd out a focus on Maths and English attainment
  • There is a lack of progression to post-16 Apprenticeships
  • Apprenticeships result in young people specialising at too young an age
  • There is a lack of recognition of the wider benefits of the young apprenticeship programme

SkillsActive urges the Department of Education to look at the successful aspects of Young Apprenticeships (YAs) and apply these to the reform of the 14-19 year old provision.

YAs give young people an opportunity to learn everyday life skills and have a proven track record in preparing young people for working life.

To fulfil the skills requirements in the active leisure sector up to and beyond the 2012 Olympics Games, the Young Apprenticeship programme will require continued support for businesses to thrive and for apprentices to grow.

Responding to Professor Wolf’s report and her views on YA, Stephen Studd, chief executive of SkillsActive, tells FE News:

“While there are areas to commend in the report, we cannot accept the points that Professor Wolf makes about Young Apprenticeships. A detailed review shows the important role that the programme has in the development of the young, in particular in our sector. Sport is a powerful catalyst for the engagement of young people, parents, employers and schools.

“Three quarters of young people on our Apprenticeship programme also passed their GSCE’s with A*- C grades and 99 per cent of pupils were evaluated to have coped well with school while being an apprentice. This blows out of the water the assertion that Maths and English are being crowded out by Apprenticeships. Maths and English are equally important as work experience, but the failure in young people’s attainment does not rest with Apprenticeships.

“95 per cent of employers in our programme are either satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of work of the young people that are placed with them. The 50 hours work placement is invaluable in bridging the gap between school and work. It is this ‘bridge’ that has previously been a barrier because of the lack of preparation for working life occurring in school. Young Apprenticeships are successfully challenging this and helping to reduce youth unemployment. When considering the costs of housing and unemployment benefit, Young Apprenticeships present good value for money.

“Evaluation of our programme has also found that 94 per cent of young people remain in full time education after completing an Apprenticeship. This shows a strong progression into further education and training, some of which will be in post-19 Apprenticeships.

“Young Apprenticeships open up young people’s eyes to the world outside the classroom and can give them a renewed sense of purpose to their education and what they can do when they finish school.

“Apprenticeships in our sector are increasing year on year with 7,241 people receiving certificates in 2010. Even those who do not progress stay involved in the industry through volunteering, coaching or participation. By the time the London Olympic Games start in July 2012, the Young Apprenticeship in Sports Management, Leadership and Coaching will have delivered over 1,000,000 volunteering hours to the sport and active leisure community.

“The success of vocational education rests in bringing together employers and young people. Apprenticeships allow young people to learn from the people that will one day hire them. Without Apprenticeships, this vital connection between education and employment will be lost.

“Since the Young Apprenticeship programme began in 2006, it has grown from 1,000 places to over 10,000 across all sectors today. The sport and active leisure sector has over 60 partnerships delivering this programme today, with demand for double that figure.

“We urge the Department of Education to recognise that in order to fulfil the skills requirements in our sector, up to and beyond the 2012 Olympics, Young Apprenticeships require continued investment and support in order for businesses to thrive and for young apprentices to grow.”

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(Pictured: SkillsActive CEO Stephen Studd)

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