Apprenticeships: Reform needed for success, say MPs

Chairman of the BIS Committee, Adrian Bailey: "The programme is numbers driven rather than quality driven"

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Urgent reform is needed to the government's apprenticeships programme, an 11-month review has concluded.

Standards need to be improved and schemes need to be better monitored in order to provide the skills needed to boost economic growth, a report by MPs said.

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee report into apprenticeships is urging schemes to be more ambitious.

It calls for apprenticeships to be seen as equal to study at university.

Commenting on the publication of the report, the chairman of the BIS Committee, Adrian Bailey, said: "The apprenticeship programme can play a key role in resolving some of this country's most pressing issues."

Skills minister Matthew Hancock welcomed the committee's report, saying: "Apprenticeships are vital for equipping people with the skills they need to prosper, and the nation with the workforce we need to compete in the global race.

"Over a million people have started an apprenticeship since 2010, right across the economy.

"So I welcome this timely and thorough investigation into apprenticeships, and will consider carefully its suggestions to help make the programme even more successful."

Fit for purpose

Last year the government invested £1.2bn in the apprenticeship programme, with 457,200 people starting training as an apprentice.

But the report concludes that there is room for improvement and recommends a number of reforms, including a clearer government policy on the purpose and goal of apprenticeships, as well as closer monitoring of their funding and effectiveness.

It also recommends that the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) have a statutory responsibility to raise awareness of apprenticeships for students within schools.

"Apprenticeships are a viable and attractive route to a career and should be seen as equal to the university route", said Mr Bailey.

Finally, the report recommended that the NAS should produce a robust methodology for valuing employers' contributions in future.

"We heard evidence of excessive profits at the public's expense, of a government paying out too much money... this is unacceptable," Mr Bailey added.

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