Where next for apprenticeships after the heads of the schemes resign?

Alex Hern reveals the problems at the heart of the government's apprenticeship scheme


The heads of the government’s flagship apprenticeship schemes have simultaneously announced that they are to step down, both citing a belief that they have completed the tasks of setting up the Skills Funding Agency and the National Apprenticeship Service.

However, as the BBC’s Hannah Barnes reports:

A private letter seen by the BBC from Mr Russell to skills minister John Hayes, sent in May 2011, warned that the misuse of public funds was “likely to increase in the context of funding challenges and greater levels of sub-contracting.

The resignations on Monday came after a series of criticisms over the way public funds are being spent on apprenticeship provision, including the fact that money was being ploughed into apprenticeships lasting just twelve weeks.

Skills minister John Hayes announced in December 2011 that there would be a review into the quality and duration of all apprenticeships schemes, and a major select committee inquiry is also under way.

Darren Johnson AM has written on Left Foot Forward about the concerns over the government’s apprenticeship program.

Examining its implementation in London, Johnson explains:

The mayor is responsible for the Greater London Authority, Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police Service, the London Fire Brigade and the soon-to-be-defunct London Development Agency.

In 2009/10, the first year of his programme, 60 per cent of the apprentices in these organisations were over the age of 25, and last year 48 per cent were over 25. Youth unemployment is measured for people aged 16 to 24 years old.

The trend for apprenticeships going to over 25s is starting to be replicated nationwide. As FE Week explains, the latest figures show that:

Whilst the number 0f 25+ increased by over 250% (from 49,100 to 175,500), all age apprenticeships starts increased 58% from 279,700 in 2009/10 to 442,700 in 2010/11. Excluding those aged 25+, the number of starts increased just 16% from 230,600 to 267,200 starts.

Given apprenticeships are one of the few solutions proposed by the government to the rocketing youth unemployment, if an increasing proportion of them aren’t going to under 25s at all, the situation for young people in Britain may be bleak for some time.

The chairman of the BIS select committee, Adrian Bailey, told the BBC that the uncovering of a £6 million loss to a dodgy football coaching apprenticeship scheme was:

“Probably the worst example of a series of scandals that does seem to be emerging across a whole range of businesses and obviously makes the proposed investigation by my select committee more relevant than ever.”

As Johnson concluded:

The government needs to overhaul and regulate the apprenticeship system if it is to be a genuine answer to youth unemployment and the skills gaps.

See also:

Cameron needs to start backing our young people and universitiesSally Hunt, January 18th 2012

How well does Boris do on apprenticeships?Darren Johnson AM, January 9th 2012

Gove is the roadblock to Burnham’s calls of aspiration, aspiration, aspirationAlex Hern, September 29th 2011

Making apprenticeships work for the economyCatherine McKinnell MP, February 7th 2011

A defence of the Future Jobs Fund: Where now for the young employed?Dan Smith, November 27th 2010

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