Youth Sector Briefing : The Happy Apprentice?


The Youth Sector Briefing mentions apprenticeships twice.

Firstly in underlining unity with the government’s policies the Briefing agrees with the objective,

Increase participation in apprenticeships and improve take up of apprenticeships among BME communities by 20%.

Secondly, becoming an apprentice is highlighted as an outcome par exemplar in the final stage of the Social Development Journey.

Applying life skills to access training and employment. Finding a role in the community and becoming a happy, contributing member of society (e.g. Starting an online business or becoming an Apprentice)

We’ll take up the issue of ‘becoming happy’ separately. Our concern here is what the government’s rhetoric about apprenticeships means in reality. We suggest the authors of the Briefing take heed of Martin Allen’s response to the Education Secretary’s instruction to schools to promote apprenticeships.

But the government’s own figures have continued to show only a minority of the 2 million apprenticeships created since 2010 have been for school-leavers – in 2014/15 just 20% of starts were by those under 19. Well over half of new starts have also been ‘low-level’ (being offered at Intermediate level – equivalent to GCSE, a level that most school leavers have already reached) and ‘dead-end’ (not leading to permanent employment, or allowing progression to higher levels of training). Meanwhile, ‘cutting edge’ apprenticeships in engineering and technology for example, are massively oversubscribed.

 Even Ofsted has published a damning report about apprenticeship quality:

‘Inspectors, observed for example, apprentices in the food production, retail and care sectors who were simply completing their apprenticeship by having existing low-level skills, such as making coffee, serving sandwiches or cleaning floors, accredited.  While these activities are no doubt important to the everyday running of the businesses, as apprenticeships they do not add enough long-term value.’ (Ofsted, 2015: 4)

Indeed we also drew attention to a Dispatches expose in a post, Apprenticeships. Channel 4 puts the boot in , once more drawing on Martin Allen’s painstaking monitoring of youth employment issues, which stretches back to the days of the MSC and Youth Opportunity Programmes.

Some three years after the BBC’s Panorama dramatically exposed the misuse of apprenticeship funding by the supermarket chain Morrison; this week’s Channel 4 Dispatches provided further disturbing evidence of how young people continue to be short changed, but also public money misspent, despite government reassurances that the reintroduction of apprenticeships has been a resounding success. Dispatches main target was the clothing chain Next, where young people taken on as ‘apprentices’ complained of low-pay, little if no proper training and worst of all, not even being given permanent employment at the end. Meanwhile, the company had continued to receive government funding – £1.8 million last year – to run a training program now rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted.

See also


Martin Allen and Patrick Ainley

At the very least the issue of apprenticeships and the role of youth work is less than straightforward.

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