Apprenticeships to be given legal protection

Nick Boles
Nick Boles

The CITB has backed UK Government plans to give apprenticeships legal protection and make sure they have the same status as university degrees.

It is hoped the move will help to crack down on firms that may misuse the term “apprenticeships” to promote low-quality training, ministers have said.

Further measures will see the government’s aim of creating three million apprenticeships by 2020 put into law.

And public bodies such as schools, hospitals, prisons and police forces are also to be set targets to encourage them to take on apprentices.

The moves are to be included in the Enterprise Bill, which will start to make its way through Parliament over the coming months.

They form part of efforts to ensure on-the-job training schemes are seen alongside university courses as a way into work.

It is already illegal to use the term “degree” without the proper authorisation.

For schemes to be recognised as apprenticeships they will have meet a range of criteria, including the offer of at least a year’s training, alongside other requirements.

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills says that apprenticeships are already providing more opportunities for young people.

The department says apprentices are helping businesses of all sizes and types to grow.

UK Skills Minister Nick Boles said: “If university graduates have their moment in the sun so should people who undertake apprenticeships. Businesses know their value so it’s high time they were recognised both by the public and in law as being equal to degrees.

“We want far more employers to get involved in apprenticeships. This means making sure that we practise what we preach in Government, so we’re going to require all public-sector bodies – schools, hospitals, prisons and police forces – to employ apprentices.”

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) welcomed the move and said that the Government’s reforms could indicate a revolutionary new “age of the apprentice”.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Apprenticeships simply don’t have the status they deserve. The Government’s latest apprenticeship reforms are a positive step – in particular, giving legal protection to the term ‘apprenticeship’ should help tackle its blatant misuse by some organisations in some sectors. High quality apprenticeships should be viewed by society just as favourably as university degrees and protecting the term from misuse will help ensure this is the case.”

Mr Berry continued: “The Government’s target of three million additional apprenticeships over the coming five years is suitably ambitious but reforms are required to ensure that these are actually delivered. As construction accounts for around 7 per cent of GDP, it means our sector should be responsible for around 210,000 of these apprenticeships, which equates to 42,000 a year over the next Parliament. Given that the industry only achieved 16,000 in 2013/2014, there is a lot of work to be done.

He added: “Government is also right to say it must practise what it preaches when it comes to training apprentices. Not only should schools, hospitals, prisons and police forces train more apprentices, government must also get better at driving apprenticeship training through public sector contracts. As almost 40 per cent of total construction output is public sector, this is absolutely key. Firms should never be awarded public sector work by central or local government unless they have committed to training an appropriate proportion of apprentices. Where contracts are not long enough to sustain an entire apprenticeship, shared apprenticeship schemes should be used. In the past, there has been evidence to suggest that pledges by firms to train apprentices have not transpired. Government needs to get better at policing its contractual stipulations if we are to really crank up the level of apprenticeships via the public sector.”

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