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Low-skilled jobs relabelled as apprenticeships

Courses incorrectly labelled as apprenticeships account for nearly 40% of such training designed by employers in recent years, a report by Reform has found

Almost 40% of the ‘apprenticeship standards’ approved by the government since 2012 fail to reach the international or historical definition of an apprenticeship, The great training robbery: Assessing the first year of the apprenticeship levy report found. These mislabelled courses are consuming more than 20% of the funding available for newly-designed apprenticeships, it stated.

Roles advertised as ‘apprenticeships’ include working in coffee shops, on hotel reception desks, and performing basic administration tasks, the report found.

Low-skilled work and short training courses do not meet the traditional definition of an apprenticeship, but have been labelled as apprenticeships using funds generated by the levy, think tank Reform said in its report published one year after the introduction of the levy.

The research found that employers are also using the levy to rebadge existing training courses as apprenticeships to shift the costs of training onto the government. Examples of relabelling were found in leadership and management courses. The list of the most popular apprenticeship standards include those geared around training someone to become a ‘team leader’, ‘supervisor’ or ‘manager’.

Without changes to the current system the government could spend £600 million on courses that are ‘apprenticeships’ in name only in 2019-2020, the think tank warned.

Reform called for an internationally-benchmarked definition of an apprenticeship to prevent the possible misuse of the apprenticeship brand. It also proposed that the government’s target of three million people starting an apprenticeship by 2020 be abandoned to prioritise apprenticeship quality.

A number of recommendations were made to reduce the financial burden of the levy on employers, including an ‘apprenticeship voucher’ for employers to use to better control the available government funding, and removing the requirement for 10% co-investment from employers towards the cost of training apprentices.

Tom Richmond, senior research fellow at Reform, said: “At present the apprenticeship levy is too complicated for employers, focused on too many inappropriate forms of training, and as a result is unlikely to deliver value for money.

"The government urgently needs to get rid of these poor-quality apprenticeships in order to provide more opportunities for young people to train as genuine apprentices while saving hundreds of millions of pounds in the process.”