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Rethinking Apprenticeships: People learn best by doing, and do best by learning

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
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#Apprenticeships have been part of the fabric of our society for the past 850 years

Until the 1960s and the subsequent shrinkage of the manufacturing sector when apprenticeships declined, they were the main vehicle for vocational training.

Much may have changed during this time, but the principle remains the same: people learn best by doing and do best by learning, both as part of an integrated approach to training including employers and educators.

In recent years, apprenticeships have enjoyed something of a revival. This government has made big strides in expanding this essential mode of training.

During the first three-quarters of this academic year, the number of new apprenticeships has increased by more than 50 per cent against last year’s total.

We have answered the call from businesses to support advanced level skills by introducing the Higher Apprenticeships Fund, designed to support up to 10,000 advanced and higher level apprenticeships. Employers across the country – large and small, from financial services, engineering and retail – demonstrate the benefits to their businesses of running apprenticeship schemes.

A completed apprenticeship usually represents a rapid return on investment to the learner, the employer and the state, by helping to address the UK’s skills gap.

We have also seen huge demand for apprenticeship places from individuals who regard them as the launchpad for rewarding careers. We are investing more in apprenticeships because both employers and learners recognise their value.

But it is just as important to make the overall system as effective as it can be. There are still many employers, especially small-scale, who would like to employ an apprentice, but who are put off by bureaucratic hurdles. I am committed to removing these.

We also need to improve progression by apprentices towards advanced skills levels, particularly in areas like manufacturing. And we do not want the apprenticeship brand to be damaged by short courses of limited value.

Our goal is an apprenticeship programme as highly regarded for its economic and educational benefits as our university system – and held in the same esteem.

I therefore welcome the input of experts with similar ambitions to the government’s. Together we can secure a promising future for apprenticeships.

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills from the forward for ‘Rethinking Apprenticeships‘, a collection of essays produced by IPPR about Apprenticeships to stimulate debate about their future.

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