ATL: Statistics don’t match the hype
The Government has been urged to work more closely with businesses to provide the training and job experience that young people need.
Figures released last week showed that 520,600 people had started an apprenticeship in 2011-12, a record number and the first time that more than half a million people had started an apprenticeship in one year, however, not everyone is impressed by these stats.
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of The Association of Teachers & Lecturers, believes that the figures represent retraining on the job rather than "real apprenticeship programmes".
"The statistics don't match the hype. It is worrying that there are fewer 19-year-olds enrolling and completing apprenticeships, and we are worried that the increase in apprenticeships among the over 19s is due to retraining on the job, rather than being on a real apprenticeship programme," she said.
"With youth unemployment at nearly a million, the Government must work more closely with businesses to provide the training and job experience that young unemployed people so desperately need.
"We would also question whether there has been progress in attracting more people from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities into apprenticeship schemes. Given the disproportionately higher BME youth unemployment rates, much more emphasis needs to be placed on ensuring that the benefits of an apprenticeship are available to a wider range of candidates."
In response to the criticism from the ATL, a business spokesman from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said work is underway to improving the overall quality of apprenticeships.
"While we too are concerned by the decrease in 16- to 18 starts, we have rightly focused on raising standards on improving the quality of apprenticeships. This inevitably may mean that some people will find it more difficult or take longer to complete their apprenticeship. But if this results in better-skilled apprentices, benefitting themselves, their employers and the economy, this can only be a good thing. It is also important to note that apprenticeships shouldn't be seen just as a route to employment. They are about upskilling.
"One of our priorities is to increase diversity within apprenticeships. The National Apprenticeship Service commissioned a series of Diversity in Apprenticeship Pilots to identify ways to attract more people from under-represented groups into apprenticeships. A final evaluation of the pilots was published in September and work is underway to implement the findings."