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Employers support apprenticeship initiatives

Firms have given their backing to government plans to raise the number of apprenticeship places available and to improve the apprenticeship system, a new report has said.

According to the latest skills survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), some 78 per cent of the 800 employers who responded said that the government is right to introduce new apprenticeship targets.

A similar proportion – 76 per cent – agreed that there are clear business benefits in employing apprentices.

However, the survey also found that reforms aimed at simplifying the apprenticeship system are yet to be fully grasped or utilised by employers.

Doubts exist whether efforts to cut bureaucracy and to make funding easier to access are actually being effective.

The apprenticeship reform programme is being implemented driven the newly created National Apprenticeship Service (NAS).

But just 7 per cent of employers had either a working knowledge of the NAS or an understanding of the matching service, which is crucial to linking young people with suitable employers.

John McGurk, who is the learning, training and development adviser to the CIPD, said: “Our skills survey finds real warmth from employers towards apprenticeships, with a clear willingness to back government efforts to double the number of places.

“But it’s clear from the findings that the government needs to do more to promote key reforms aimed at simplifying the apprenticeship system. Our survey suggests poor awareness of important initiatives like the matching service, the new NAS, and the qualifications and credit frameworks that link apprenticeships with diplomas.”

Dr McGurk added that apprenticeships are rapidly re-establishing themselves as part of the skills solution but warned that employers will only continue to engage with such training opportunities if they can see the business benefits.

Dr McGurk said: “Apprenticeships can deliver real value for employers, but even more needs to be done to drive home this positive message, helping to recruit more employers.”

The survey also revealed valuable feedback on the government’s other big hope for workplace-friendly education: the 14-19 education diplomas.

Some 71 per cent of employers believed that diplomas represent a useful new route into employment for young people.

At the same time, though, businesses are sceptical that diplomas will be valued on the same level as traditional academic qualifications. Only 44 per cent thought that diplomas will better prepare young people for the world of work than current academic qualifications.

Despite their misgivings, employers expressed a willingness to support the initiative, with nearly three-quarters ready to take young people on for work experience as part of their diploma.

Dr McGurk went on to say: “Diplomas are in their infancy, so the employer support that is indicated in our survey is vital. This support will only continue, however, if it can be demonstrated that diplomas are consistently embedding useful skills in school leavers, helping society and enriching the UK economy.”