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Apprenticeship policy ‘failing’ young people

Apprenticeships in the UK need fundamental reform to ensure they are helping young people transition from education into work, according to a new report.

The Work Foundation has published ‘The road less travelled?’, which highlights that just 6% of 16 to 18-year-olds were enrolled in an apprenticeship programme in 2011. The rise in apprenticeship take-up has been dominated by participants aged over 25, with 71% being existing employees.

Demand amongst young people currently outstrips the supply of apprenticeships, the report found, and calls for a greater number of employers engaged in the system to offer more quality places.

Recommendations include improve the pathways into apprenticeships through improved careers advice and guidance; better promotion and regulation around apprenticeship pay; increased employer engagement through better links with schools; and improving the educational content of apprenticeships.

Report author Katy Jones said: “Youth unemployment has been rising since the early 2000s and has remained at around one million for some time now. A coherent apprenticeship policy would go a long way in helping to tackle this crisis. But apprenticeship policy is currently in flux and has, so far, failed to take account of the long-term shift towards a service economy.

“There must be clearer guidance around the national apprenticeship wage – for both employers and apprentices – especially in sectors such as social care, where a relatively high proportion of apprentices are paid below the legal minimum. Employers who do not meet this should be sanctioned, and recognise that the minimum wage provides a minimum floor. Where possible employers should be encouraged to pay apprentices more.

“The limited representation of service industries in the government’s Trailblazer pilots is a missed opportunity to develop pathways into higher quality service occupations, particularly given that services account for 85% of overall UK employment. Government has also lowered the minimum training requirement for 30% off-the-job training to just 20%.”

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