Skills Minister Nick Boles has announced plans to regulate the use of the term ‘apprenticeship’ by law within the upcoming Enterprise Bill, due for release in the autumn, in the same way that limitations exists around the term ‘degree’. Under this legislation, positions would reportedly be required to provide on-the-job training, pay at least the minimum wage and include 30 hours or more of work per week, in an effort to ensure firms offer high-quality qualifications. This comes as part of a government pledge to create three million new apprenticeships by 2020, with 2.2 million new positions having already been created since 2010.
Introducing the proposal, Boles said of apprenticeships:
“Businesses know their value, so it's high time they were recognised both by the public and in law as being equal to degrees.”
This initiative emerges in the wake of a recent report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggesting additional progress is needed to ensure young people benefit from apprenticeships, with IPPR researcher Luke Raikes stating:
“The majority of apprenticeships are being used to train older people, and those who are already employed at their company, instead of taking on young people out of work.”
In light of these concerns, several prominent business groups have welcomed the new proposals, particularly those representing industries where skills shortages pose a barrier to growth.
“This will be music to the ears of employers in advanced manufacturing and engineering. We need to train 800,000 more engineers by 2020 if we are to meet the sector's skills needs,” commented Ann Watson, Chief Executive of the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and
Manufacturing Technologies (SEMTA). “These new changes will help to strengthen the apprenticeship brand, which will ensure that more of our best and brightest young people consider apprenticeships as a serious alternative to university courses.”
The announcement elicited a similar response from the construction industry, where the number of apprenticeships in construction, planning and the built environment has dropped from 16,890 to 8,000 since 2010.
“Apprenticeships simply don’t have the status they deserve,” said Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). “High quality apprenticeships should be viewed by society just as favourably as university degrees and protecting the term from misuse will help ensure this is the case.”
Managing Director of the Builders Merchant Federation (BMF) John Newcomb agreed, reporting the measure, “Will also encourage students, parents and employers to value them in the same way that they currently value degrees.”
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