Apprentices to get graduation-style award ceremonies

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Ministers plan to introduce graduation-style award ceremonies and alumni networks for apprenticeships, amid concerns about their quality.

There has been a rapid increase in the number of apprenticeships in England in recent years, with successive governments urging young people to consider them instead of university.

But there are concerns about quality, with some as short as three months.

The government says it plans to set out steps to safeguard standards shortly.

The Association of Learning Providers has complained that apprenticeship programmes as short as 12-weeks were being marketed, leading to questions about whether quality can be assured in such a short time-scale.

And a review of all short apprentices is being carried out by the National Apprenticeship Service.

Status

Writing in a book on apprenticeships, launched at the Association of Colleges conference in Birmingham, Skills Minister John Hayes said: "Those who take the practical path should enjoy symbols of status as seductive as those who take the academic one.

"This is why the government will publish the achievements of high-level apprentices, introduce award ceremonies, and foster alumni networks.

"And a new scheme has been launched that will give apprentices access to the benefits of a National Union of Students (NUS) card."

He adds: "For these symbols of success to be meaningful, we also need to ensure that achievement is properly recognised in the workplace."

Writing in the same book, senior policy officer with the TUC Iain Murray says his organisation had "pressed governments" to ensure that "pressure to achieve numerical targets does not lead to lower standards of quality".

'Certain cachet'

Apprenticeships should "not be viewed simply as a means of subsidising employers", he added.

He also calls for minimum duration of at least two years for all Level 3 (A-Level standard) apprenticeships, and adds: "It has sometimes been difficult to maintain high standards across the board while chasing targets.

"Governments have put themselves under a lot of pressure to actually achieve their apprenticeship targets and it maybe that sometimes not enough attention has been given to certain key areas, such as stipulating a minimum duration for apprenticeships.

"There is strong anecdotal evidence that some very large employers receiving government subsidies have been running short term apprenticeships and this needs to be tackled."

He added that the apprenticeship brand still has a "certain cachet" and that it was still the case that in many traditional sectors young people did apprenticeships lasting three to four years.

Some high quality apprenticeships were in more demand than places at Oxbridge, he said.

"But," he added, "there's a minority of areas where there are some issues about quality. If you have an apprenticeship lasting 12 weeks, it shouldn't in my opinion be called an apprenticeship."

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