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The view on apprenticeships must change and should be seen as equal to a degree, says Richard review

Tom Newcombe , 27 Nov 2012

Network Rail

More teenagers should be encouraged to take work-based apprenticeships as an alternative to university, according to a review by entrepreneur Doug Richard.

The review, published today, said the previous Government's target to push half of school leavers into university had resulted in an "unthinking collective belief" that a degree "offers an indication of greater capability which it does not, in fact, confer".

He said that a successful overhaul of the system should be made to enable 18-year-olds to turn down "a place at Oxbridge to take up an apprenticeship if that is the right path for them".

Entrepreneur Doug Richard was asked by Business Secretary Vince Cable and Education Secretary Michael Gove to consider the future of apprenticeships in England.

The review also found that apprenticeships in England should last a year and genuinely train someone in a new role.

In his review, Richards, said: "There is real value in an apprenticeship lasting for a year or more. Apprenticeships measured in weeks or months, even if it is enough time to teach the required material and gain the requisite experience, can still fall short.

"It is as though the apprenticeship experience itself requires time to bed in and for the individual to transform from an apprentice to a skilled worker. We should afford our apprentices that time."

Richard also said: "Apprenticeships or the notion of them are popular", but that this has led to many things being called apprenticeships, which, in fact, are not.

"Simply enough, not all instances of training on a job are apprenticeships," he says.

They "require a new job role, a role that is new to the individual and requires them to learn a substantial amount before they can do that job effectively," he said.

As a consequence, he says, the nation risks losing sight of the core features of what makes apprenticeships work.

He adds that while the knowledge required for a job could be covered in a shorter period of time, it took time for "the individual to transform from an apprentice to a skilled worker".

This comes after numerous complaints that some agencies and businesses have been offering low grade apprenticeships that only last for a few weeks or even months, in exchange for cheap labour and government funding.

Jason Holt, CEO of jewellery company Holts Group, who led a review earlier this year on the value of apprenticeships to SMEs, told HR magazine: "Doug's strategy is a vision - relying on employers to get involved and take ownership. This must be right.

"It will take time to change small business culture towards training - with my caution on needing to engage SMEs.

"However, I believe Doug is spot on and these changes taken as a whole have the potential to make that paradigm shift I referred to in my review - when one day, recruiting an apprentice becomes a simple and natural part of growing an SME business, and joining an SME as an apprentice becomes a coveted springboard for many starting their careers."

He added: "At the moment there is definitely a stigma when it comes to apprenticeships over degrees and that has to change.

"We've got to help change a whole generations views that apprenticeships aren't worth what a degree is and replace it with reality."

"If apprenticeships can be shown to create real value then businesses can own the system and pay the providers."

Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills policy, said: "Business will welcome this report. We agree that apprenticeships should be a route to a great career. They also ensure business builds the right skills to drive economic growth.

"Businesses are best placed to understand their own training needs, so it's right that employers should have a greater say in apprenticeship design and which training is funded. By putting employers in the driving seat, we can ensure that government funding for training is more closely aligned with the needs of industry and future job creation.

"To make sure that all firms can access the training they need, it's rightly recognised that we need a simple, accessible funding system, and businesses will welcome the idea of a skills tax credit."

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Apprenticeships are not equal to a degree

Libby Hood 27 Nov 2012

I am concerned that the comments made in this article will further degrade the value of a degree. How can a one-year apprenticeship be equivalent to a 3-year degree? I believe that people must learn to accept the differences in educational qualifications. Someone without a degree is not a lesser person than a graduate - but that doesn't mean we should devalue the academic qualification. Apprenticeships should focus on practical skills, while degrees are (or should be) more academic. As a society we should encourage young people to take the qualifications for which they are most suited - not just push everyone into university because it is seen as a "good thing". This does not mean that we should not value every worker, but we need to accept that we are not all equal.

Employer involvement in recruiting apprentices

Richard Rochester 28 Nov 2012

Employers have a duty to themselves and to their businesses to not only develop a personnel plan. But for that plan to be in-line with the marketing strategy for the business. There must be a business case for investing in a person that will support the development of the business to achieve its goals. The young person is employed first by the company to fit into a long term growth plan. They embed an internal training programme supported by accreditated training provided by further and higher education.

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