Call for shift in attitudes on apprenticeships

The view apprenticeships are 'not as good as university' needs to be challenged to help fill the skills gap in Malvern Hills District, according to a new report.

The Apprenticeship Task and Finish Group, is calling for better marketing of apprenticeships, support to help young people travel to access apprenticeship opportunities, and to make it easier for small and medium-sized firms to get funding to recruit apprentices.

The group – made up of councillors on Malvern Hills District Council – spent five months looking into what stopped young people taking up apprenticeships.

Their findings are now being used by the Local Government Association to lobby the Government for changes to the way apprenticeships are funded and provided.

A survey of secondary school pupils, carried out as part of the review, found most were still heavily influenced by the views of their parents and family, who generally saw apprenticeships as inferior to a university education.

They also found information available about apprenticeships poor quality. A lack of transport was a major barrier.

Businesses felt apprenticeship training programmes did not meet their needs, there were too many agencies involved, and the national apprenticeship levy made it too difficult for smaller non-levy paying companies to get funding for apprentices.

The review found competition for apprenticeship places is increasing, but they were still often seen as minimum wage jobs. In reality, in certain sectors like IT and engineering, apprentices could start on more than £20,000 a year. Young people also didn't realise degree level apprenticeships were available.

The group has recommended the council lobby the Government to simplify the national apprenticeship levy to make it easier for small and medium-sized companies to access funding. They also want the council to run a series of marketing campaigns promoting the benefits of apprenticeships, to improve information about apprenticeships on the council's website and promote them as part of their work with schools. Councillors also want the council to consider providing a grant to help apprentices travel for job opportunities and to review its procurement rules to give more weight to companies that employ apprentices when bidding for council contracts.

The report was approved by the council's Executive Committee at a meeting on 22 September.

Cllr Daniel Walton, Chairman of the Apprenticeship Task and Finish Group, said: "Our review showed businesses were keen on apprenticeships but often struggled to find suitable applicants, or the experience was poor. There are very real benefits to both companies and individuals in going down the apprenticeship route, so we need to work harder at dispelling the myths around them."

Cllr Sarah Rouse, Leader of Malvern Hills District Council and Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, said: "This is an excellent report which highlights the many barriers we face to increasing the take up of apprenticeships. If we are to fill the skills shortage in our district then we have to get away from this idea that a university education is the only way of getting a job that pays a good wage and offers great career prospects."

Read the Apprenticeship Task and Finish Group report in full.

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