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Apprenticeships need both length and quality, says parliament

A parliamentary report published yesterday has questioned the length and quality of many apprenticeships. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said that a fifth of the schemes last six months or less and are of "no real benefit". But it also praised the increase in apprenticeships, which quadrupled in number in the four years to 2011.

Last month, skills minister John Hayes said all apprenticeships must now last a minimum of 12 months. Shadow education minister Gordon Marsden said: "It remains clear that many of the additional adult apprenticeship starts which ministers have been boasting about are merely rebranded training placements.”

The PAC said the number of adult apprentices who successfully completed their apprenticeship was more than three-quarters in 2010/11, compared with just a third six years earlier.

"The Apprenticeship Programme has been a success. But the department could do more to maximise the programme's impacts," said the chair, Margaret Hodge, citing the short length of programmes. "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."

Hayes said there were 457,000 apprenticeships in 2010/11. The National Audit Office said that adult apprenticeships deliver £18 of economic benefits for each £1 of government investment.

Ann Pickering (pictured), HR director for Telefónica UK (O2) commented on the importance of quality training when it comes to delivering effective apprenticeship schemes: “Apprenticeships are an important way to get people into work and enable apprentices to develop and learn new vocational skills. But the success of these schemes can only be guaranteed through quality training that supports and nurtures those on them.

“At O2, we offer a three-year apprenticeship where our new recruits get the opportunity to experience a range of different departments and sectors. Our apprentices tell us that they value the training they receive, the mentoring they are offered from permanent employees, and the opportunity to experience a wide range of roles across the business.

“Employers will only get the best out of apprenticeship schemes by investing time, money and energy to make them successful,” Pickering concluded.