Some thoughts on apprenticeships
Originally posted on April 17, 2014 for the Institute of Opinion: http://www.instituteofopinion.com/2014/04/apprenticeships/
Every party claims to be the party of apprentices and the party who champions apprenticeships. But we haven’t seen the revolution in apprentices we need. We are in a situation where we look to other countries in awe and look to the past and reminisce. The future has to look brighter than the past.
Apprenticeships like many problems cannot be fixed unless we speak directly to people. We have got to help people who feel let down, listen to their concerns and hear out their needs. That is what we as Hampshire and Isle of Wight Young Labour have been doing. We started by asking local members of the Labour party, the Fabian Society, the Cooperative party, members of the community, teachers, potential and current apprentices and asked them what their ideas are and what they would like to see done to change the current situation. The general consensus was that the scale and pace of the change has not been done with nearly enough speed or vigour to bring lasting results.
The tinkering around the edges – ‘big problems need big ideas and solutions’.
The campaign emphasises the importance of apprenticeships in a variety of settings and sectors. People believed on moral and practical grounds that all apprentices should be paid the basic national minimum wage for their labour and to make it possible for those from poorer families to take on apprenticeships. Continuing legal checks were also considered important to ensure the standard of apprenticeships on offer remain high and valuable to the people involved. The group is also calling for contractors and partner organisations of local authorities to offer apprenticeships as a form of ethical procurement.
- Attach a new section under UCAS titled APAS whereby apprenticeship opportunities would be advertised both in UK and EU.
- All contractors and outsourced services that work with central government or council funds would have to offer apprenticeships as part of ethical procurement.
- The government should enforce that all UK companies over a certain size would have to offer apprenticeships paid above National Minimum Wage.
- Every educational institution should have representatives on local business forums.
- Legal checks on apprenticeship practice to check the standard of apprenticeships provided and boost standing of apprenticeships rewarded.
These recommendations require all agents working together as together more can be solved. However in the absence of the state offering the extra help to set up a UCAS style system for apprentices, local authorities could engage with the National Apprenticeship Service to make sure that the service is optimised. Councils could also have at least one representative working on and leading the engagement process of schools and colleges to help create and connect opportunities in the area. Councils can work with the Local enterprise Partnerships (LEP’s) and business forums to emphasis the importance of fair pay and apprenticeships, and follow the lead of Southampton City Council who recently offered a grant to promote community-based enterprises, such as small cooperatives and mutuals to enable them to grow.
That is not to say that any one of these agents cannot make a difference on their own. One such change would be councils forcing up wages via public procurement contracts and increase the number as well as range of apprentices they employ. The use of Section 106 agreements and community-focused contracts can offer much more than they do now. Many, myself included think it is indefensible for a council to not attach provisos to these contracts especially when money is tight.
The need for apprenticeships has never been greater. Speaking to an elderly gentleman the other day while out campaigning, he we telling me how he was an apprentice and before him his dad and how the skills he developed over the years may sadly not be passed on. We face losing a tradition, a way of life and valuable skills. We are allowing many of the older generation to simple burn out and their skills be squandered, yet at the same time we are leaving an eager young population to add to a pile of over a million young people. Labour have offered a Jobs Guarantee scheme, however if we don’t see a large proportion of these guaranteed jobs in apprenticeships we might not reap all the rewards of the offer. A sad loss and a missed opportunity.
I call on you, and I call on the government to listen to the people on the ground and make the sort of changes needed. I also call on Labour nationally, to make apprenticeships a key plank of the Job’s Guarantee scheme and make the opportunity possible and worthwhile with an increase in the quantity and the quality of apprenticeships available.
The petition has over 350 signatures, which you can view at: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/ministers-force-government-and-large-corporations-to-provide-apprenticeships-support