Govt outlines quality apprenticeship plans

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More high-quality apprenticeship places are to be created in the coming years

The government has announced new steps to bolster its apprenticeship plans. Last Friday (August 21st), prime minister David Cameron outlined plans to increase the number of quality apprenticeships, supporting the government's pledge to create three million by 2020.

Announced in October 2014, this pledge was promised on the basis of a future Conservative government, which Mr Cameron said would serve to eradicate youth unemployment should his party win the election. At the time, he stated that such apprenticeships would not only help to create more opportunities and greater security for young people, but also would give Britain a more promising economic future and the ability to compete with other countries.

Friday's announcement outlined the next steps of these plans, which take the dual focus of increasing both the number and quality of apprenticeships available. They will also give businesses a say in how such schemes are run.

Applying to a wide array of businesses, from butchers to nuclear engineers, the plans look set to have a broad impact for both those looking for work and businesses seeking the opportunity to train skilled individuals and bring them onto their staff. They include setting new industry standards for apprenticeships, with the goal of enhancing quality, and a proposed levy on businesses.

"As a one nation government, we are committed to supporting three million quality apprenticeships over the next five years – to help strengthen our economy, deliver the skills that employers need and give millions more hardworking people financial security and a brighter future," stated the prime minister.

Among the new measures is a proposed apprenticeship levy, which would encourage businesses to invest in apprentices and skills training; contributing employers would then be able to spend their funds as they see fit. This would be with a view to counter the two-decade drop in training investment from UK businesses.

At this stage, the government is requesting feedback on this proposal before the idea is developed further and potentially introduced.

Commenting on the plans, director of public services policy and management at Kings College Professor Alison Wolf said: "This country once had, and then lost, an excellent apprenticeship system. I am delighted that the government is introducing a levy. In my view, this is a necessary step towards re-creating high quality apprenticeships across the country."

The implementation of industry standards for quality apprenticeships was also outlined, with the government revealing that some 59 new apprenticeship standards have been developed.

Covering a wide range of professions including personal training, welding and nuclear engineering, these standards aim to improve the quality of apprenticeships. They will do this by outlining the skills apprentices will need to have to meet employers' needs.

Also outlined were changes to government procurement, which state that any bid for a government contract worth more than £10 million must be able to demonstrate commitment to apprenticeships. This change will come into effect from September 1st 2015, and will particularly look for organisations that comply with apprenticeship best practice.