When Simon Waugh said he was stepping down as chief executive of the National Apprenticeship Service last month, on the same day that Geoff Russell, the head of its parent organisation, the Skills Funding Agency, announced his retirement, it naturally raised eyebrows.
Over the last six months, the NAS has come under increasing scrutiny for failing to act on the problem of apprenticeship providers offering really short apprenticeships, when the minimum recommended is around a year. Some providers, like the De Vere Hotel Group, had been delivering qualifications in 12 weeks or less.
The NAS and the SFA have also been criticised for giving public money to big businesses such as Morrisons and Asda to train existing employees, in some cases, generating big profits for private companies delivering training on their behalf.
News that the heads of both these organisations (two of the most senior jobs in vocational education) were stepping down fuelled speculation in the sector that the two had jumped before being pushed – a situation that wasn’t helped by the way the announcement was handled. While Waugh says the dual announcement was “coincidence”, an SFA press officer told Education Guardian it was planned that way.
Today Waugh is keen to set the record straight. His decision to leave was purely motivated by a need to spend time with his family after the death of his four children’s mother at the end of last year, he explains.
He is annoyed about the pressure he has faced to explain the reasons for his departure. “So I have to explain to journalists something which is unbelievably personal to me and my family,” he says. “What a terrible world we live in.”
But he is keen to give his analysis of the apprenticeships landscape, and problems that he thinks have been blown out of proportion. “There is a really small percentage of programmes that are poor quality and I have been all over it for many months. Inevitably as you grow, there are going to be providers that are not doing things the way they should – and we were going to spend more and more time ensuring the quality of every programme.”
Steps have been taken already by way of a new set of standards introduced last April. The Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (Sase) stipulates that every apprentice should receive up to 280 hours of guided learning (time in education and training, away from their usual duties) each year and should, in theory, prevent abuse of the system. Under new government measures due to be introduced in August, all apprenticeships for 16- to 18-year-olds must last at least a year, and NAS is currently reviewing whether similar rules could be applied to older learners.
The NAS has neither the budget nor the manpower to keep track of what every learner is up to, says Waugh. Staffing has been cut by 25% in the last six months, he says. And because funding for apprenticeships is allocated to colleges or training companies, which may then sub-contract to other providers, news of “immoral, illegal or inappropriate” behaviour can take months to reach the organisation.
It is over 40 minutes into an hour-long interview before Waugh concedes that the NAS could have done any more, that “there’s stuff we need to fix, do better”.
He admits he underestimated what a political hot potato apprenticeships were. “I am a bloody idiot for being naive; I didn’t quite realise,” he says.
Waugh does not accept that NAS is wrong to work with big businesses such as McDonald’s and Morrisons. What critics fails to recognise, he argues, is that these companies are not just taking handouts from the government to subsidise staff training. The “anti-big business” argument ignores the fact that these companies give people a chance to develop basic literacy and numeracy, which has wider benefits for society – and they do it on company time, says Waugh.
That might be so, but is it right to call these training programmes apprenticeships? Can an 18-year-old checkout operator be compared with, say, trainee stonemasons who might spend years learning their craft? He dismisses such questions as “snobbish”.
Some media coverage, he says, has focused on companies investing in apprenticeships to help solve unemployment. This idea is a “big fallacy”, says Waugh. “Apprenticeships are not about unemployment. These are real jobs that exist anyway and this is about training people and giving them the best foundation they will ever have in their lives.”
Following the case of the De Vere Hotel Group, which last year was found to be advertising more than 700 12- to 16-week apprenticeships, more than 40 short-duration programmes are under review.
While the NAS has said it will close down any providers found to be abusing the system, Waugh says some don’t necessarily realise they are doing anything wrong, and with guidance, can turn things around.
The scrutiny and criticisms of the last six months have hit the NAS hard. This week, which is National Apprenticeship Week, sees the introduction of a new marketing campaign – known as “New Era for Apprenticeships” – that will attempt to “reposition” the organisation and ensure that learners, employers and training providers are more aware of their rights and responsibilities. The poster campaign, based around the slogan “apprenticeships deliver”, will target employers, young people and their parents, via advertising on public transport, direct mail and social media.
Figures from the National Audit Office published last week suggest that while apprenticeships have grown by 140% in the last five years, the majority of jobs have gone to the over-25s, suggesting that a growing number of existing workers are being trained under the scheme. One in five apprenticeship programmes were completed in less than six months.
But Waugh is keen to stress that he is leaving the organisation in a strong position. “I tell you, if there were real issues in apprenticeships … if I thought there were really serious, systemic problems here, I wouldn’t walk away.”
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You’re hired! Maligned UK banks bring in apprentices
By Michelle Martin
LONDON, Feb 8 (Reuters) – High street banks in Britain, under fire for cutting thousands of jobs, are ramping up their apprentice schemes, opening up more than 1,700 starter jobs as Britain’s government tries to rally support for its own plan to tackle youth unemployement.
Barclays announced on Wednesday it would offer 1,000 young people apprenticeships this year. HSBC plans to take on an extra 688 by the end of 2012 to bring its total number of apprentices to 1,000.
Santander said it would launch a new training scheme for up to 50 applicants.
The placements on offer are dwarfed by the number of jobs being lost in the British finance sector – UK banks, insurers and asset managers axed 9,000 jobs in the final quarter of 2011, according to business lobby group the CBI, and a further 11,000 could follow in the first three months of 2012.
On Tuesday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron launched the bidding for an employer ownership pilot scheme which encourages companies to take on more apprentices by offering 250 million pounds ($397 million) in public investment for skills training.
A spokesman for Barclays said its scheme was not connected to the government’s. The other banks could not immediately be reached for a response on who was funding the schemes.
Youth unemployment in the UK rose above the politically sensitive 1 million mark last November for the first time since comparable records began. It rose again in the three months to November, taking unemployment for 16-24 year-olds to 22.3 percent.
The previous Labour government also tried to encourage apprenticeships, using a campaign fronted by British businessman Alan Sugar – also the host of the UK version of reality TV show The Apprentice, and known for his “you’re fired!” and “you’re hired!” catchphrases.
Barclays said it wanted to offer unemployed, unqualified young people a 12-month training scheme in England and Wales with the prospect of a permanent position at the end.
The apprentices will be paid 15,000 pounds ($23,700) and will also be eligible for a performance-related bonus, a source familiar with the matter said.
The launch of the scheme comes at a particularly sensitive time for banks, which are under intense public scrunity over high pay.
Barclays is due to report its preliminary results for 2011 on Friday, when Chief Executive Bob Diamond could come under pressure to give up any bonus offered, although scrutiny has been greatest at the banks bailed out during the financial crisis.
Last month RBS Chief Executive Stephen Hester and Chairman Philip Hampton waived their bonuses amid intense political pressure on these employees of the 83 percent state-owned bank to refuse the awards.
David Fleming, national officer at trade union Unite said he welcomed the banks’ announcements about apprentices.
“There is no doubt that urgent action is needed to improve the reputation of the financial services sector, Unite hopes that such a professional training programme will help with this,” he said.
The national minimum wage for apprentices is 2.60 pounds per hour, making the Barclays scheme look generous at about three times more before bonuses, although the national minimum wage for adults is 6.08 pounds an hour — equivalent to about 11,000 pounds a year.
Every 1 pound invested in apprenticeships brings a return of 18 pounds to the wider economy, data from the National Audit Office shows.
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Mayor calls on business to create more apprenticeships
Boris Johnson has called on employers to take on more apprenticeships and provide youngsters with the work-skills they need.
The call came as the Mayor announced he was half-way towards meeting his target of creating 100,000 apprenticeships by the end of 2012.
Speaking on Tuesday the Mayor said: “There are thousands of enthusiastic young Londoners who are crying out for the opportunity to become apprentices and we must help them to realise their ambitions.
“We have had huge success with our campaign so far, but we have to work harder to convince more businesses about why apprentices are such fantastic assets to invest in.”
The Mayor added: “A motivated and skilled workforce is essential for the economy’s health and by opening up their doors to apprentices London’s firms can play their part in helping to beat the downturn.”
The value of apprenticeships
Tuesday 7th February 2012
This week (6-10 February) is National Apprenticeship Week. Geraldine Taggart-Jeewa, a member of the Practice Management Network steering group, says the experience of employing a general practice apprentice provided mutual benefits and highlighted a key training gap…
It is apprenticeship week and many of the local media publications are advertising the benefits of taking on an apprentice. It has been six months since we took the plunge and decided to embark on the challenge of taking on an apprentice. It has been a very interesting experience.
Six months ago one of our receptionists left and this provided the opportunity to consider our skill mix and roles within the team. As a training practice we had experience of training both future doctors and practice nurses, and had supported the admin team in gaining NVQ qualifications.
It was with that in mind we decided to employ an apprentice. We contacted one of the organisations that provide apprenticeship opportunities and they took much of the hassle of recruitment of my busy shoulders. The beauty of this is that they will screen the applicants and only send those for interview that they believe are suitable for the post.
It has been said that apprenticeships are beginning to be recognised as the gold standard for work-based training. There are three types of apprenticeships: Intermediate, Advanced and Higher. We decided to employ a school leaver working towards an Intermediate Level NVQ 2 in Customer Services. We have been pleasantly surprised and delighted that our apprentice has completed her NVQ 2 in six months.
One of the other obvious benefits is that we have been able to stretch our staffing budget further, since the rate of pay for an apprentice is £2.60 per hour.
This meant that we were able to increase the amount of hours in total of our admin team, as apprentices work full-time while our receptionist had worked part-time. Practices are free to pay more and indeed we choose to do so but as long as the post is a recognised apprenticeship position then the minimum wage rules do not apply.
What we did not anticipate is that our apprentice, who would admit that she had no interest in a clinical role, has been inspired working with us to become a nurse. This means that we will extend her apprenticeship for a second year, so she will study for an NVQ3 in healthcare, qualifying as a clinical receptionist.
Undergoing this process has highlighted to me a gap that exists in nurse training. I for one would like to see a programme that trains our future nurses from apprenticeship to degree via a general practice route.
If we want future receptionists, admin staff and indeed nurses to have the necessary skills to meet the increasing demands of the public and the necessity to provide excellent customer and clinical services in primary care then it seems to me that a great way to start would be to have excellent general practice apprenticeships.
On a final note, our apprentice tells me that when she told her friends she was going to do an apprenticeship they all thought it was a bad idea and that she would regret it. Six months later, they are asking if they can have an apprenticeship in our practice!
Geraldine is Managing Partner/Business Director at North Meols Medical Centre and is Joint Honorary Secretary of the Family Doctor Association.
Would you like to see more apprenticeships in general practice? Share your views.
Apprentices point to a bright future
Article from Hull Daily Mail
FROM wave machines in Scotland, to fatigue tests for BAE’s world-class Nimrod, Point Engineering has used its expertise in a variety of high-profile projects.
Established in 2001, the company, based in Lee Smith Street, east Hull, was founded to provide quality mechanical and industrial engineering to the manufacturing, processing, distribution and energy markets.
GUIDED: Point Engineering’s Dan Taylor, left, and apprentice Ryan Richardson. Picture: Peter Harbour
However, its initial success gave Point Engineering the confidence to apply its knowledge and expertise in new fields.
The firm now operates in marine environments and shipbuilding, as well as across diverse markets such as food storage and defence.
And helping the company to prepare for the future is a team of keen apprentices who are being guided on to the first step of their career ladder by Point’s experienced workforce.
Managing director Steve Norton said: “We are passionate about getting young people interested in engineering and giving them the training to help their career.
“I have been involved with Hull Training for about 15 years and avidly try to inspire schoolchildren about the possibilities of a career in engineering.
“We feel it is as much a benefit for our company as it is for the apprentices.”
Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies, yesterday released findings that showed East Yorkshire and the North East are offering more apprenticeships than other areas of the country.
The figures showed about a quarter of East Yorkshire employers operating in science, engineering and manufacturing technologies offer apprenticeships.
Nationally, this figure stands at 17 per cent.
The research also revealed that nearly half the total of engineering apprentices aged 25 and over in England are in the north.
Point Engineering, which has developed its own apprentice scheme in addition to providing numerous work experience places each year, employs five apprentices.
Mr Norton said: “We have people from school-leaving age up to around 18-years-old, but there is no reason we would not take on anyone above the age of 25.
“The reason many apprentices are younger is because by 25, people are more likely to have started their career and have families or mortgages, but we would be happy to look at apprentices of any age.”
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Apprenticeship Week launched at Channel 4’s London offices – Commercial Property News covering City of London Commercial Property News, Mayfair & St James Commercial Property News, Mid Town Commercial Property News, Outer London Commercial Property News, Victoria & Knightsbridge Commercial Property News
Apprenticeship Week launched at Channel 4’s London offices
Business secretary Vince Cable has launched the fifth annual Apprenticeship Week at the London offices of Channel 4.
The event was attended by representatives from the creative sectors and apprentices themselves, with Skillset and the National Apprenticeships Service promising to deliver 500 trainee positions across 300 organisations.
A large proportion of the companies are small in size and so will be able to apply for £1,500 as an incentive to take on an apprentice during 2012-2013.
Mr Cable commented: “Not only do [apprenticeships] provide individuals with the skills they need for prosperous and rewarding careers, they also boost businesses’ profits and drive growth in the wider economy.”
Firms with London offices have proven to be significant supporters of apprentice placements.
Mayor of the capital Boris Johnson revealed in the autumn of last year that in just over 12 months, more than 40,000 apprenticeships had been created at London offices.
This made London the fastest-growing UK region for the development of apprentice placements. However, Mr Johnson said he expected this increase to continue, with him aiming for roles for around 100,000 individuals to be made available by the end of 2012.
Posted by Emma Davies
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MINI apprenticeship boost for BMW’s Swindon plant
February 7, 2012
By Robert Buckland
Total apprenticeships at the car firm will increase to 200 this year, including 11 at its Swindon plant, which presses body panels for all MINIs.
Across its three manufacturing sites – Swindon, Oxford and Hams Hall, near Birmingham, apprentice intake will double this year to 70 places at as the plants prepare for the next model generation.
In addition, BMW and MINI dealerships are looking to recruit around 130 young people across the UK.
Apprenticeships last between three and four years and cover a wide range of skills from human resources and business to electrical maintenance and engineering. The training leads to an NVQ level three qualification and some apprentices will have the opportunity to progress right through to degree level in the course of their career at MINI.
MINI Plant Oxford managing director Dr Juergen Hedrich said: “Investment in young people is a key part of our development strategy for the plants; therefore we are delighted to be able to offer young people the chance to join our modern apprenticeship scheme.”
BMW and MINI dealerships in the UK will be recruiting around 130 apprentices in 2012. The programmes are in various disciplines ranging from Service Technician Apprentice, Parts Advisor Apprentice, Motorcycle Technician Apprentice and Body Refinish/Paint Apprentices.
All BMW and MINI apprentices complete the two-year Advanced Modern Apprenticeship at Level 3 and receive VRQ/VCQ qualifications from the Institute of the Motor Industry. Training is carried out at the BMW Group Academy UK, a purpose-built training centre opened in 2006 and located near Reading. In general the minimum entry criteria require between three and four GSCEs at grade C or above (or equivalent).
BMW Group UK managing director Tim Abbott said: “Bringing new talent and fresh thinking into our dealerships is vital to allow us to provide the best possible service for our customers and so I am delighted that we will welcome around 130 new apprentices to our award- winning scheme in the UK.”
PM outlines apprenticeship plans
(UKPA) – 1 day ago
Apprenticeships will no longer be considered a “poor man’s degree” with the introduction of higher-level training, the Prime Minister has said.
Combining apprenticeships with higher education will become far more common place in Britain, David Cameron said.
Speaking during a visit to the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA) in east London, which trains apprentices to work on infrastructure projects, Mr Cameron said: “We are expanding the number of higher level apprenticeships, those that involve degree-level courses, and I think this is vital because for years people have sort of said that apprenticeships are the poor relation of higher education.
“I don’t think they are at all and I think what we are going to see with the expansion of the higher level apprenticeships is many people going into them as they leave school, spending time doing that and then going on and doing a university degree linked to their apprenticeship skill.
“That is what has happened for years in Germany and it is going to be happening much more in Britain.”
Mr Cameron said academies like TUCA, a purpose-built not-for-profit facility built by Crossrail to train people in working in tunnel excavation, underground construction and infrastructure, was crucial to the future of the country.
“I think we are seeing a really big part of the industrial future of Britain,” he said.
“I think for years in our country we have had excellent higher education, excellent university education, but we haven’t put nearly enough into vocational education, apprenticeships, into skills training, and what I’ve seen today shows me this is absolutely at the cutting edge of what we need to do as a country.
He added “I think for years people have said this country hasn’t taken skills seriously, it hasn’t taken apprenticeships seriously, and I really think that we are now doing that.”
Mr Cameron said the Government was committed to addressing some of the “historic weakness” of apprenticeship programmes and would reduce the cost and bureaucracy involved in apprenticeships to encourage more businesses to participate.
Copyright © 2012 The Press Association. All rights reserved.
Posted by Paul Champion from Google Alerts
Preventing Youth Unemployment in Medway – are Apprenticeships the answer?
Hoorah, its Apprenticeship Week (6th – 10th February, 2012), hands up all those young people who want to do an apprenticeship. Hands up all the small to medium sized businesses who want to take on an apprentice!
As one of Margaret Thatcher’s YTS (Youth Training Scheme) successes, I am a great believer in apprenticeships and will always promote them wherever I can.
In one of my roles as an Apprentice Support Consultant, I found it astonishing (and extremely disappointing) at the number of young people who were applying for an apprenticeship role, via the National Apprenticeship website, but turned up for the pre-interview having no idea what an apprenticeship was!
Having to witness this time and time again, I made it my responsibility to invite all appropriate applicants to a group training session to help them understand the mechanics of an apprenticeship and how it could help them now and in the future. Young people left my training having a greater understanding of what an apprenticeship was, but boy, did I open a huge can of ‘employability’ worms when it came to explaining how to apply for one!
It became abundantly clear that not only did the young people have no idea about apprenticeships, they didn’t have a clue about how to put together a CV (being a true reflection of their ‘real’ skills – not one that they had downloaded from the internet), they were reckless in their completion of application forms (thinking that missing out some boxes was totally acceptable) and the most worrying of all is the alarming lack of social and self-promotional skills. Too many young people are failing at interviews (if they ever get that far!) because they have no idea how to promote themselves, identifying transferable skills from their everyday lives that can convince an employer that they are right for the role on offer.
So, now the government has again decided to jump on the ‘Apprenticeships are the way forward’ wagon and offer cash incentives to encourage businesses to take on an apprentice (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15878796).
I agree that Apprenticeships ARE the way forward for young people but what Medway (and the rest of the UK) need to think about is adopting a ‘NEET Prevention’ scheme (Not in Education, Employment or Training) ensuring that young people have all the information on how to apply for apprenticeships and, more importantly, how to apply themselves BEFORE they leave secondary education (prevention rather than cure). Employability Skills needs to be part of the curriculum, not as a stand-alone subject, but included in all lessons as an add-on to what they have learnt in that lesson.
If young people are made aware of how crucial everyday skills are, such as working as part of a team, problem solving, confidence building and leadership skills (to name just as few) it could help them gain employment in the future leading to less NEETs and more inspired and motivated young people.
In addition, the attitude of young people most certainly needs to be addressed by instilling confidence and motivation through the right delivery, encouraging a ‘can-do’ environment within the classroom rather than the more passive policy adopted by outside organisations that are brought in to supposedly prevent future youth unemployment (judging by the statistics, something obviously isn’t working!)
Employability training is not being positively implemented to encourage young people to change their attitude towards the world of work and appreciate that –
There are available jobs once they leave school
They are capable of gaining a job in the career of their choice
University can be an option, whatever the fees may be.
Once this happens, the keenness of employers wanting to take on an apprentice should naturally follow. Why should an employer take on a young person who cannot convince anyone (themselves included) that they are right for the role. If we have more confident, work ready young people who can easily promote their skills and be honest and realistic about their expectations, they are more likely to be successful in their quest for employment.
So, to summarise, YES – Apprenticeships are the way forward, just make sure that all young people and employers know why!
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The post below was posted to these blogs via e mail link. For some reason it did not transfer the originator or owner of the post.
My apologies for any confusion. It was not in any way my intention for anyone to believe this post was my own work.
The content was written by Jane Hart.
Jane Hart is the Founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies.
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