City & Guilds: Autumn Statement puts apprenticeship system at risk

Published:  05 December, 2013

Support for an additional 20,000 higher apprenticeships was announced by Chancellor George Osbourne in today’s Autumn Statement. 

Mr Osbourne highlighted that the coalition government has prioritised apprenticeships and delivered 1.5m apprenticeship starts since 2010.

He said: "To build on this success, the government will reform apprenticeship funding to ensure that employers are at the heart of the system and it delivers skills that meet the demands of UK businesses."

Responding to the announcement, Chris Jones, chief executive of City & Guilds Group, said: “Apprenticeships have come so far over the past few years thanks to government investment, support and focus. It’s fantastic to hear in the Autumn Statement that a budget surplus is in sight and that all the indicators point to growth in the UK economy.

"In 2012, we conducted research which showed the correlation between apprenticeships and economic growth. It showed that by creating a million apprenticeships by 2013, £4.37bn would be added to UK business by 2020. I don’t think it is a stretch to say we are starting to see some of that play out and today’s announcement that an additional 20,000 higher apprenticeships will be created is welcome news.”

However, Mr Jones added that while it wasn’t the intention, the Autumn Statement has put the apprenticeship system at risk. He said: “It's not the focus on employer ownership that's risky - that's something we actually welcome. It's the assumption that employers have the time - and indeed the will - to cope with the additional bureaucracy these reforms will entail. Rather than incentivising employers, I fear they'll be put off by what's been announced and decide it is simply not worth the hassle. That would be a disaster, and another generation of young people in this country would lose out.

“All employers, regardless of size, will feel the effects. The reforms will require additional resource. There will be even more hoops to jump through to establish an apprenticeship. Where is the incentive there?”

Mr Jones added: “Employers should certainly be in the driving seat for apprenticeships. But without enough involvement from educators and awarding organisations, the road ahead is bumpy.

“I hope that we will be able to work with the government to find a flexible, workable solution which gives employers control but also support.”

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