Apprenticeships are on the rise. But are they fair?

 

The Institute of Student Employers (ISE), formerly known as the AGR, has released its annual report. Pulled together in July/August 2017, and based on 200 ISE members with a 65% response rate, it provides a comprehensive picture of how employers recruit early talent and the state of the graduate and school leaver jobs market in the UK.

So, what are they saying? Well, there’s a firm focus on the fact that apprenticeship growth is outstripping graduate jobs. With a 19% increase in apprenticeships (equating to 11,016 vacancies), this is notably ahead of graduate hiring, which only saw a 1% increase (totalling 20,614 jobs). Not that this is particularly shocking. With the levy coming into enforcement in April 2017, there was bound to be a spike.

It went on to reveal that degree-level apprenticeships grew at the fastest rate (50%). Yet, as it’s in its infancy, growth was from a relatively low base. And only 823 of the 11,016 apprentices, were degree level this year. It means growth is likely to slow down next year. Although employers already hiring degree apprentices are expecting to increase their vacancies by 15% overall in 2018. With an additional 18% of employers expect to start offering these opportunities next year.

Clearly, apprenticeship are on the up. But what’s the reality of the experience for those apprentices?

A spokesman for the Department for Education said “Latest figures show that 89 per cent of apprentices are satisfied with their apprenticeship, with 97 per cent of apprentices saying their ability to do the job had improved.”

That’s good, right? Yes, it is. But according to a survey by the National Society of Apprentices (NSoA) and Tes, the whole picture isn’t as rosy as it might seem. It’s not disastrous, but there is definitely room for improvement.

The survey, by NSoA and Tes deduced that one in six apprentices is not paid for their off-the-job training. A fifth of apprentices in the survey did not feel that they received any training on the job and 17 per cent claimed they were not paid at all for time spent in off-the-job training, with a further 12 per cent saying they were unsure.

An NSoA spokesperson said the results suggested that many employers were using apprenticeships as “cheap, subsidised labour without any obligation to train or develop the apprentices”.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Certainly, the evidence implies that there are some employers that could do better. Sadly, there were always going to be the rotten eggs who’d abuse apprenticeships to their benefit. However, let’s not forget that the vast majority of participating employers are providing an invaluable employment channel for our early talent.  To those young people who are simply not inclined, or qualified, to further their learning in higher education. Yet, equally, who want to develop, learn, and get paid for these first steps in their working lives.

So, whilst there are some employers who are not playing fair, we hope they’re called upon to pull their socks up. And not spoil if for those apprentices and employers out there who are enjoying mutually beneficial – and successful – partnerships.

 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

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