Some apprenticeships are so short as to be “of no real benefit” to anyone, while the amount and quality of training provided by others is questionable, a parliamentary committee has warned.
The Public Accounts Committee
pointed out that, of the schemes that it had evaluated, about 20% lasted for only six months or less – although last month skills minister John Hayes said that all apprenticeships from now on must last for a minimum of 12.
But the Committee also praised the rise in the number of schemes available, which have quadrupled in the four years to 2011. Last year, the government spent £1 billion in England to create more than 450,000 places, a 63% increase on the previous year.
Moreover, the Committee also said that the number of adults who had successfully completed their apprenticeship was more than three quarters in 2010/11 compared with only a third six years earlier.
The Public Account Committee’s chair, Margaret Hodge, likewise pointed out, in reference to the short duration of many schemes’ that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills “could do more to maximise the programme’s impacts”.
Reducing barriers to entry
“The danger is that apprenticeships lasting such a short time are of no real benefit to either the individuals who take part or employers, and could devalue the programme,” she said.
There were also concerns over the “amount and quality of training some apprentices receive. Many do not receive the off-the-job training they are entitled to and this is something the department must address,” she added.
Hayes attested that employers typically saw a return on investment in about two years, but also added: “New safeguards are being put in place to strengthen monitoring, reporting and subcontracting arrangements.”
, meanwhile, welcomed recommendations for BIS to “improve the quality of its information and promote apprenticeships better to increase the number of new starts”.
But the employer lobby group’s director for employment and skills policy, Nick Carberry, added that the government needed to reduce employers’ barriers to entry.
“Better defining the relationship between the Skills Funding Agency and the National Apprenticeship Service is a good idea,” he said. “Businesses are not interested in who’s responsible in Whitehall. They want a single identifiable point of contact as their source of information, and clear, robust support when they’re setting up new schemes.”