Apprenticeships announcement failed to meet full endorsement from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation

Apprenticeships announcement failed to meet full endorsement from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation

 Costs are going up – and students will feel the impact.
Not enough vacancies are available for students seeking apprenticeship

Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has responded to the government’s announcement from the 6th of February 2023 made by Gillian Keegan who is serving as a Secretary of State for Education. This announcement is particularly relevant to young people who will be able to use UCAS to search for apprenticeships.

UCAS, the Gloucestershire England-based company that until now has allowed students to apply for undergraduate studies at universities, will from autumn 2024 also start offering the option to apply for an apprenticeship. Gillian Keegan, who was an apprentice herself says she wanted young people to know that university is not the only career option they have.

In fact, according to the UCAS statistics, up to half of the students who register on their portal would consider an apprenticeship but cannot do so because not enough vacancies are being advertised.

Although REC’s director of campaigns Shazia Ejaz welcomes the commitment she is hoping that “this announcement today is not the finished article on reform of the Apprenticeship system and in particular the Apprenticeship Levy.

The Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in April 2017 to give employers a bigger role in addressing skills shortages and to create more apprenticeships. The problem, however, is that many employers cannot make the most of the available funds because of the shortcoming in the system design.

In September 2022, the Labour Party announced it would reform the Apprenticeship Levy so that it could be used for other types of training if the party came to power. The party’s plans included changing the policy to a ‘growth and skills levy’, under which businesses could use up to half of their contributions to fund non-apprenticeship training, such as modular courses.

According to Personnel Today, the regime is not working as well as it is expected with employers only using on average 55,5% of available funds. Ejaz further stated, “Making it easier for young people to consider vocational training through UCAS is a positive move. But we need to broaden the access to the money from the Apprenticeship Levy that businesses pay into.”

As the apprenticeship must run for at least 12 months, the announcement is not helpful to short-term workers, who are an important part of the UK labour market, as it excludes them from training opportunities. According to the REC’s director of campaigns, the issue is the 12-month period that “disadvantages many businesses trying to fill vacancies quickly and in areas such as hospitality or logistics where shorter courses would work just as well to meet employer needs which will then unlock growth in the economy.”

And so while the change that the Secretary of State for Education has come up with may help young people apply for apprenticeships alongside degrees on UCAS, the REC has made it known that there are flaws in the plan that disadvantage workers important for the UK labour market.

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