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Gloucestershire Business News

Firms are labelling low-skilled jobs as apprenticeships

Uproar has been caused by a report claiming the introduction of the apprenticeship levy has undermined the quality of apprenticeships.

According to the research, called 'The great training robbery: Assessing the first year of the apprenticeship levy ', some firms have simply re-labelled existing low-skilled roles after being forced to contribute into the levy.

The Government has said apprenticeships must be skilled roles requiring training of at least 12 months and provide the apprentice with transferable skills.

But the report claims some of the high street's biggest names are abusing a system bought in to raise the status and prestige of the route to work.

"I find the re-branding of some low paid jobs into apprenticeships absolutely disgusting," said Ian Mean, Business West Director for Gloucestershire.

"An apprenticeship means proper training to a planned development programme—not an excuse to give a little bit of instruction and then take advantage of people desperate for a job."

"I do not entirely blame companies using the levy they are obliged to pay If they have a turnover of over £3million) for alleged training in this way.

"The fact is that the Government's apprenticeship levy is seen as a tax by many companies and the government's whole apprentice programme is in a mess.

"We now have fewer apprenticeships than ever being taken up and it is becoming harder and harder to get through all the Government red tape to actually take on an apprentice.

"Here in Gloucestershire, we were one of the UK's apprenticeship leaders with companies like Clarkson Evans and Renishaw flying the flag with great apprenticeship programmes.

"But sadly, the Government seems to have taken its eye off the ball and what was a flagship programme for apprenticeships is in a poor state and must be given a big boost."

The study, by Reform, said: "The introduction of the levy has diminished the quality of apprenticeships.

"The list of roles now officially counted as an 'apprenticeship' includes many low-skill and often very short training courses, all of which can now be delivered using the funds generated by the levy."

Reform said of the apprenticeship standards approved 40 per cent do not meet traditional definition of skilled on-the-job training courses.

However, there has been criticism of the findings of the report from the right-wing think tank from some and questions asked about the motivation behind it.

Patrick Mcleod, curriculum director, apprenticeships, SGS College, said what was being missed in the coverage were "the many excellent apprenticeship opportunities that are available".

"At SGS College we place around 800 young people into high quality apprenticeships every year. We work with employers ranging from micro and SME employers, to large household names such as Boeing, the MOD and the NHS Blood and Transplant Service.

"Before we place any apprentice we carry out thorough checks and ensure the workplace can provide the appropriate work roles, skills-development opportunities and supervision.

"Apprenticeships offer bespoke training for each employer, so the vast majority of our apprentices go on to become highly valued members of the workforce and stay in sustained employment.

"Apprenticeships raise ambition, and we have apprentices who have progressed from intermediate apprenticeships through to Higher and Degree level apprenticeships.

"Others have used apprenticeships as a route into university. Increasingly, employers are seeing the apprenticeship route as an alternative to their graduate recruitment programmes."

For its part the Government, in the form of the Department for Education, said its reforms had already "fundamentally changed" apprenticeships for the better.

"Quality is at the heart of our reforms," a spokeswoman told the BBC. "We're pleased to see an increase in people starting our new, higher-quality apprenticeship standards in a whole range of industries from nuclear to fashion, law, banking and defence.

"These apprenticeships are designed by employers themselves, to give people and businesses the skills they really need."

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