The government’s flagship Apprenticeship programme has been slammed after a report from the cross-party Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission made wide-ranging criticisms of the scheme.
Just over a week ago Business Secretary Sajid Javid gave a speech praising Apprenticeships and following up David Cameron’s pledge to increase the number of placements available to three million. According to Javid, Apprenticeships are no longer seen as a second-best option, or a safety net for kids who didn’t make it to A-levels or university, but instead are an “incredible opportunity” to prepare young people for being “the leaders of tomorrow”.
The reality, as revealed this week’s report, is that many young people are taking a lower level of qualification then would be expected had they stayed in mainstream education.. Over two thirds of Apprenticeship starts for those between 16 and 19 were at GCSE level – the same standard of qualification they may already have gained at school. As the report notes “It is reasonable to expect that young people should progress in education; that each qualification they take is another rung up the ladder.” Few on Apprenticeships are being given this opportunity.
The report also finds that the growth of Apprenticeships amongst young people is collapsing, whilst the number who complete the programe has fallen to just over two thirds. For the highest level Apprenticeships, equivalent to degree level study, the figures are dismal – only 4% of Apprenticeships are at this level and the vast majority are taken up by those over 25. Just 5,300 under 25s began an higher level Apprenticeship in 2014/15 compared to almost 300,000 taking lower level qualifications.
The vast majority of Apprenticeships are found in sectors identified by the report as low paying and with little chance of progression, such as hair-dressing, childcare, hospitatlity or construction. Apprenticeships are also reinforcing gender division in the workforce – a shocking 98.4% of construction Apprenticeships and 86.2% of Information Technology placements were taken up by males. In contrast women made up 85.3% of Health Public Services and Care Apprenticeships.
The report concludes that the Apprenticeship system has a range of problems which “hold back opportunity” and suggests that the scheme could be “perceived as a failure regime by those seeking social mobility.” Politicians of all parties now consider a young person becoming a hair dresser or builder to be a failure. Fuck social mobility – we just want the money.
Sajid Javid claims that Apprenticeships are giving “ALL of Britain’s young people the opportunity they need to rise to the top”. The truth seems to be that the scheme is really ensuring young people get conditioned to a lifetime of low pay and lack of career progression. Most Apprenticeship pay rates are set at minimum wage except for those under 19 or in their first year who receive a meagre £3.30 an hour. For all this government’s talk of aspiration, the rise of Apprenticeships seems really intended to teach the young the working class to learn their place.
You can read the report at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeships-young-people-and-social-mobility
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