Skills change must bring quality and quantity

David Ost, regional director of the EEF in the North West
David Ost, regional director of the EEF in the North West
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A Lancashire manufacturing leader has called on the Government to focus on “quality as well as quantity” in its drive for apprenticeships.

David Ost, regional director of the EEF which represents hundreds of manufacturers in the county, said increased emphasis needed to be placed on “more sophisticated products” and research apprenticeships.

The report, published by the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee on Tuesday, called for urgent reform of the system and hit out at the “excessive” profits being made by apprenticeship schemes.

It claimed the Government’s apprenticeship strategy lacked “a clear strategy and purpose” and recommended changes including giving the National Apprenticeships Service (NAS) legal rights to push the qualifications through schools and colleges.

Mr Ost said: “Manufacturers are placing a growing emphasis on research and development, more sophisticated products and a relentless focus on improving processes.

“This means they need more high-level skills and the government should adopt a benchmark of raising the number of higher level apprenticeships by a quarter within three years.”

He added the NAS had “a key role” to play in raising awareness of apprenticeships but called for manufacturers to be given the chance to join them in schools.

More than half of manufacturing companies in Lancashire now offer an apprenticeship scheme.

Mr Ost said: “They are well placed to go into schools to speak about the opportunities associated with undertaking an apprenticeship and these relationships should be encouraged.”

In its report, the BIS select committee said the Government should outline a formal definition of an apprenticeship, to state clearly that they are aimed at developing skills.

Chairman Adrian Bailey warned the current system was “open to abuse” and called for urgent action to be taken to review it.

He said there were many areas of apprenticeships that needed careful monitoring, or even complete reform.

The committee, which held an 11-month inquiry into apprenticeships, said the Business Department should explain the impact of funding on different age groups because places were not just for young people.

The National Apprenticeship Service should be given statutory responsibility for raising awareness of apprenticeships within schools, the committee urged.

Mr Bailey added: “It is important that we continue to invest in skills.

“We heard evidence of excessive profits at the public’s expense, of a Government paying out too much money far too easily and of a lack of genuine value for money being provided by apprenticeship schemes.

“This is unacceptable.”