From education to employment

Apprenticeship have suffered under drive to boost numbers, warns Ofsted

The drive to increase the number of Apprenticeships has damaged the brand and quality of the vocational qualifications, according to Ofsted.

A report published today details how efforts to create a higher skilled workforce are being undermined by an influx of poor quality courses, focused on sectors and priories that do not reflect the need of employers or the economy.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, has called on schools, employers and FE and skills providers to come together and raise the quality of all Apprenticeships.

“Too many of our schools are failing to prepare young people for the world of work. Even where they do, the careers advice on offer isn’t encouraging enough youngsters into vocational routes that would serve them best,” said Sir Michael.

“Too many of our FE providers have focused for too long on equipping youngsters with dubious qualifications of little economic relevance. And too many employers have not engaged with schools or organised themselves effectively to make the apprenticeship system work.

“Our report today lays bare what many have long suspected. Despite the increase in numbers, very few Apprenticeships are delivering the professional, up-to-date skills in the sectors that need them most. Employers and providers involved in poor quality, low-level apprenticeships are wasting public funds. They are abusing the trust placed in them by government and apprentices to deliver meaningful, high-quality training.

“Being an apprentice should be a badge of honour. The reforms now working their way through the system are commendable. But we are kidding ourselves if we think our good intentions are enough. We have won the argument over the value of apprenticeships. We have yet to make them a sought-after and valid alternative career choice for hundreds of thousands of young people.

“Unless we do so, we risk leaving in place a two-tier system of high and low quality apprenticeships that short change the participants and fail to address the skill needs of the nation.”

He  also called for more local coordination to address the system’s shortcomings.

“The overriding problem has been, is and will continue to be one of organisation,” he continued.

“Unless there is a very clear organisational structure around Apprenticeships the government’s ambitions will remain unmet. Employers have got to take ownership. Why isn’t there a recognised structure to deliver apprenticeships at a local level? If the great majority of employers are SMEs, employing fewer than 20 people, how can they fully engage if they don’t know where to turn?

“This is my challenge to you. Organise yourselves. It’s no use waiting for others to put structures in place and then bemoan the lack of progress made. Use your networks and knowledge to find solutions.”

Natalie Thornhill

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