UK’s New Era of Apprenticeships

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Buoyed by recent economic figures, David Cameron – keen to wrest the political spotlight from his Labour rival Ed Miliband – is poised to unveil a new generation of apprenticeships. Inspired – in part at least – by the apprenticeship model of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Mr. Cameron will hope that the UK can replicate their success at bringing runaway unemployment levels under some semblance of control.

As part of reforms, designed to make UK apprenticeships “the best in the world”, apprenticeships will last for a minimum of 1 year and more searching academic testing in subjects such as Maths and English will be introduced. This heightened academic rigour is a direct response to recommendations made by entrepreneur Doug Richard and is intended to give apprenticeships some “serious kudos” with employers and employees alike. Already, this strategy seems to be working more than 60 high profile firms such as BMW, BAE Systems, Microsoft and Barclays Bank having signed up for the scheme.

The National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, John Allan, warmly welcomed the announcement, saying that “Apprenticeships can transform a young person’s life, providing access to bespoke training and often a highly skilled job which they may only have dreamt about.”

In addition to a reformed apprenticeship model, it was announced that a widespread vocational training scheme, modelled on the successful Prince’s Trust model, will also be introduced. The scheme will provide 100,000 training places and is to be rolled out with the support of many high profile companies including HSBC, Kingfisher, M&S, National Grid, Tesco and Unilever. The scheme will see intensive vocational training, complemented by mentoring and on-the-job experience. A Prince’s Trust spokesperson said of the scheme “Prince’s Trust programmes are proven to help unemployed young people into jobs. Now, this backing from some of Britain’s biggest businesses will support thousands more disadvantaged young people into work.”

Mr. Cameron announced his twin reforms by saying ‘I want us to deal with the scourge of youth unemployment by giving young people more chances and choices in life.” On paper at least it appears as if there latest initiatives stand a real chance of doing just that. By bringing on board industry and the Prince’s Trust, the UK government has opened the doors to wider consultation on how to tackle the youth unemployment crisis. While this must be applauded as a significant forward step, it does leave a lingering question floating about at the back of my head. What role were Youth given?

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