‘Mired in confusion’
Other concerns expressed by participants during the event included the Government’s lack of timely communication and transparency over its plan for apprenticeships.
Stephen Timms, Labour MP and member of the Education Select Committee, stated that a “clear sense of direction seems to be lacking” when discussing the Government’s plan. He added that unless a clear plan is formed, along with a greater understanding of the benefits apprenticeships bring to productivity and the economy, “there is a real risk that the apprenticeship system will become mired in confusion”.
The MP also raised questions over how success of the reform would actually be measured and how the target number of three million had been reached.
Matching skills to business needs
Skills was another issue high on the agenda, with Mark Basnett of Liverpool City Region Enterprise Partnership, stating that the biggest constraint on growth today for businesses is access to skills. The panel agreed that ultimately employers have to take a lead on apprenticeships if business needs are to be properly translated into the provision of good apprenticeship schemes.
Improving perceptions of apprenticeships
During a question and answer session towards the end of the event, a delegate raised concern over the difficulty of finding eligible apprentices. This was followed up with an urge from speakers to break the current culture that apprenticeships are seen as inferior to university and a call schools to provide better information on careers and apprenticeship opportunities.
Praising YMCA Training for the work it does with young people who haven’t succeeded in mainstream education, Stephen Timms MP ended the session by adding that the organisation had “been successful in engaging young people who for whatever reason hadn’t done well in school”.