CREATION OF NATIONAL APPRENTICESHIP SCHEME WELCOMED
The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee have published their follow-up report to “Apprenticeship: A key route to skill”, which was published in July 2007. The Committee broadly welcome the Government’s renewed commitment to improving apprenticeship provision since their report was published but call for the new National Apprenticeship Service to be directly responsible to a single government department and Government Minister.
The Committee welcome the creation of the National Apprenticeship Service acknowledging that it fulfils the role of a UCAS style ‘clearing house’ that the Committee called for in their original report. They point out that in the pilot of the new ‘matching service’ in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight there were 17,000 apprenticeship applicants registered but only 6,000 apprenticeship offered in the region each year. The Committee hope that NAS will ensure that suitable potential apprentices are effectively matched with apprenticeship providers.
However the Committee are disappointed that responsibility for the NAS has been split between two departments – the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. Their original report called for a single Minister to be directly responsible for apprentice provision and the Committee reassert that position in their follow-up report.
The Committee also call for the NAS to be given responsibility for contacting employers and encouraging them to offer apprenticeship schemes. The current proposed arrangements are for the Learning and Skills Council’s Train to Gain brokers to contact employers. The Committee point out that the Learning and Skills Council only has about 250 staff working on apprenticeships. The Committee feel this is inadequate for the challenging role of encouraging employers to get involved in apprenticeships and call for the NAS to be given a more direct role in contacting employers.
The Committee express regret that the Government rejected their recommendation that funding for apprenticeships should be paid directly to employers. The Committee argue that paying money directly to employers providing apprenticeships would put them at the centre of apprenticeship provision and encourage Small and Medium Enterprises to get more involved in apprenticeships. They point out that in much of Europe incentive payments are made directly to employers and argue that such an approach would encourage apprenticeship provision in the UK.
The report also considers how apprenticeships fit into the wider educational system. The Committee renew their call to the Government to make the transition from apprenticeship to higher education easier for those who want it. They say that they are “left with the strong impression that the Government is doing very little to establish a clear path from apprenticeships to higher levels of education”. They also call on the Government to do more to ensure that schools inform children fully about the options for taking up an apprenticeship and about the benefits of becoming an apprentice.
Commenting Lord Vallance, chairman of the Lords Economic Affairs Committee, said: “We are pleased the Government is now taking steps to improve apprenticeship provision in the UK. For too long apprenticeships have been undervalued and inadequately supported by Government and we hope this will now change.
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