A lack of “high-quality” apprenticeships is exacerbating literacy and numeracy problems in UK and creating an unskilled workforce, a new report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says.
A new apprenticeship levy for larger companies is set to be introduced to reach an official target of three million by 2020.
However, the CBI has raised concerns that the new funding will not deliver the skills British businesses actually need.
It points to evidence that shows that of apprenticeships starts in 2013/14, a mere 2 per cent were higher apprenticeships, which lead to qualifications at a level equivalent to higher education.
Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “The new levy announced in the budget may guarantee funding for more apprenticeships, but it’s unlikely to equate to higher quality or deliver the skills that industry needs.
“Levies on training already exist in the construction sector where two-thirds of employers are already reporting skills shortages.”
Rod Bristow, president of Pearson’s UK business, which helped compiled the report, said: “The government is right to be ambitious about apprenticeships. We need more higher-level apprenticeships in high growth sectors like biotech, engineering, and technology, as well as traditional ones.
“But our further education sector … sits on the edge of a funding precipice and may suffer damage for years to come.
The new report, which surveyed over 300 companies employed more than one million people, also shows five in ten firms have workers who struggle with basic literacy and numeracy skills.
It said companies are being forced to train adults, school-leavers and graduates in the basics because they have fallen behind due to “widespread weaknesses”.
Companies reported difficulties in hiring people with the relevant skills in science, technology, engineering and maths, with half of firms experiencing -or expecting within three years- a shortfall of experienced staff.
The survey included responses from firms that ranged in size from companies with fewer than 50 employees to firms with more than 5,000.