Tag Archives: Apprenticeships

‘A Failure Regime’, Apprenticeships Slammed By Government Committee

broken-ladderThe 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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Unpaid Work Schemes Are De-Skilling A Generation And Perhaps That Is The Intention

try-before-you-buy

A delegate at a recent skills conference promotes the use of unpaid work schemes. h/t @screenedout

Anyone who thinks you need to carry out an unpaid work experience placement  to be qualified to work in Poundland has never shopped in fucking Poundland.  This is not being a job snob as former Employment Minister Chris Grayling claimed when people objected to Tesco using unpaid staff.  It is simply recognising that an employee in a shop adds value to that business from day one – and so they should be paid from day one.

The growth of unpaid work in the UK has been justified with familiar claims that the young are lazy, or need to be taught how to get out of bed in the morning.  There is nothing new about this.  The generation that came of age in the late 80s and early 90s were ‘slackers’ and all the same crap was said about us.  Now some of those slackers are saying the same thing about young people today.

The truth is that the young are working longer for less money than at any point in the last half century.  Many are on shitty Apprenticeships which will be paid just £3.30 an hour even after an increase which takes place next month.  Others are not even being paid at all and are working full time on Work Experience schemes whilst trying to survive on £57.90 a week Jobseeker’s Allowance.  To put this sum in context, as far back as 1989 employer based Youth Training schemes for 16-18 year olds paid a similar amount to this and usually came with a day-release placement at college once a week.  Even this has now disappeared.  Those on the government’s Work Experience scheme receive no formal training at all beyond the odd workshop in how to write a CV.  A recent survey of employers found that even 26% of young people on an Apprenticeship only received less than 3 hours training a week.

This shocking statistic comes from the Employer Perspectives Survey carried out by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).  This large annual survey has regularly been used as evidence that unpaid work experience for the young is essential because this is what employers say they want.  The DWP’s recent disastrous #WECan campaign was launched with a gushing press release quoting from the survey that two thirds of employers say that “work experience is a crucial factor when hiring new employees”.

This was an outright lie.  What the survey actually says is that 23% of employers believe ‘relevant’ work experience is critical when recruiting staff whilst 43% said it was significant.  This is just obvious.  The first thing anyone’s going to ask when offering someone a job is whether they’ve done it before or not.  In some cases, such as being an airline pilot, it will indeed be critical that they have had some experience flying a plane.  Yet the #WeCan campaign claimed that any work experience was important, no matter how irrelevent to the job hopes of the young people concerned.

The DWP are not the only ones who have been less than honest with these survey results.  UKCES themselves have misrepresented the results to promote the value of unaid work – such as in the tweet below which claims that work experience is the most common attribute employers cite as lacking in young recruits.  A look at the accompanying graph shows that employers appeared to think that it is work or life experience that is lacking amongst new young recruits.  A look at the survey from which these figures came shows that what employers were actually asked was whether education leavers had a “lack of working world / life experience or maturity”.  Even then less than half of bosses said this was a problem amongst 16 year olds, whilst only 14% of employers thought that 18 year old college leavers lacked life/work experience or maturity.ukces-tweetWhat this survey suggests is that it is just not true that most employers are obsessed with the idea that the young are too lazy and feckless to work. And this shows in their recruitment practices.  31% of employers said they had recruited an education leaver in the last 2-3 years whilst only 29% had recruited someone over 50.

The current obsession with mass workfare is not just pandering to the needs of employers, it is pandering to the never-ending whining of the worst kind of employers – like the 10% of bosses who brazenly told UKCES that the reason they offered work experience placements was to help with the workload or because it meant they didn’t have to pay people.

Legislation is on the way which will force all young people into an unpaid traineeship, an unpaid community work placement, or if they can find one, a poverty paid Apprenticeship.  These are young people that could be studying at college, or might have gone to university had the government not tripled tuition fees.  They could be fucking about with computer code, or motorbikes, or making things to flog online.  Or making music, art or youtube movies.  From the UK’s once thriving music scene to the once thriving alternative press, young people with time on their hands have achieved incredible things which have brought benefits to the whole of society in time.  And in that process they gained far more work/life experience or maturity then any shitty work placement in a supermarket could offer them.

Unpaid work experience schemes are de-skilling the young, the opposite of their claimed intention.  But perhaps this is really why they exist.  With the number of middle class jobs expected to shrink due to automation then there will no longer be space for social mobility.  The architects of workfare schemes are simply ensuring that in future the good jobs go to their kids and the working class youth are put back in their place.

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