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Are apprenticeships the benchmark of the future?

Photo Neil Cross'The BAE Systems Academy for Skills & Knowledge at Samlesbury'Ben Webster
Photo Neil Cross'The BAE Systems Academy for Skills & Knowledge at Samlesbury'Ben Webster

With the cost of getting a university degree leaving students with tens of thousands of pounds in debt, much is being done to erode the stigma attached to apprenticeships.

Last April the government introduced what has turned out to be a controversial levy on big business to help fund its apprenticeship plans.

The idea is that those with massive budgets, with a pay bill of over £3 million a year, are taxed and the money spent towards paying for apprentices.

However, according to latest government statistics not enough is being done to encourage more school and college leavers down this route.

The Government promised to deliver three million apprenticeship starts by 2020 but figures just released show a 27% drop in starts year on year.

However, the number of higher level apprenticeships is up compared to the same time last year. Last week the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee heard that around 50 per cent of British graduates are employed in non-graduate roles and questioned if the expansion of university education raised the qualification requirements for jobs that do not require graduate skills.

File photo dated 06/10/11 of a trainee bricklayer as a record number of people are applying for apprenticeships, with up to 17 per vacancy, new figures have shown. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday May 31, 2013. Almost 370,000 applications were made online in the quarter to April, an increase of a third compared to the same time last year. The number of apprenticeships being advertised rose by 15% to 32,600, with between 10 and 17 people applying for each position. The National Apprenticeship Service said the most competition was in London, with 17 applications per vacancy. The biggest increases in apprenticeship vacancies were in vehicle sales, the power industry, clinical healthcare support, advanced engineering construction and leisure management. The most competitive sectors included the arts, media and publishing. See PA story INDUSTRY Apprentice. Photo credit should read: Ian Nicholson/PA Wire

File photo dated 06/10/11 of a trainee bricklayer as a record number of people are applying for apprenticeships, with up to 17 per vacancy, new figures have shown. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday May 31, 2013. Almost 370,000 applications were made online in the quarter to April, an increase of a third compared to the same time last year. The number of apprenticeships being advertised rose by 15% to 32,600, with between 10 and 17 people applying for each position. The National Apprenticeship Service said the most competition was in London, with 17 applications per vacancy. The biggest increases in apprenticeship vacancies were in vehicle sales, the power industry, clinical healthcare support, advanced engineering construction and leisure management. The most competitive sectors included the arts, media and publishing. See PA story INDUSTRY Apprentice. Photo credit should read: Ian Nicholson/PA Wire

Verity Davidge, head of Education and Skills Policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation said the drop in new apprentices should “act as a wake up call to Government which has failed to act on industry’s growing concerns around the Apprentice-ship Levy.

“The fact that the drop isn’t as huge as the previous quarter is by no means a cause for celebration as the numbers are a snapshot of the time when most apprenticeships begin.

“The only ray of hope we can find is the increase in the number of higher apprenticeships.”

With advanced and degree apprenticeships in more industries than ever before, the vocational route is open to all.

Degree apprenticeships are a university degree and apprenticeship rolled into one. They typically take three or four years but the apprentice works and studies part time so they are paid. All fees are paid by the employer and the Government.

The idea is new so there aren’t many around but they are growing in popularity.

At college level, apprenticeships are gaining in popularity, particularly in training-orientated hubs like Preston’s College.

Blackpool and Fylde College works with big employers like BAE Systems and Lancaster and Morecambe College has extensive links with local industry.