Change policy on apprentices or risk a lost generation of workers, Centre for Social Justice warns

A “lost generation” of young workers looms unless the Government significantly modifies the apprenticeship system, Ministers were warned today.

The report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think-tank calls on the Government to exclude degree holders from accessing apprenticeship funds to undertake a degree-level apprenticeship, to ensure that apprenticeships for younger, low-skilled workers are prioritised and readily available.

It argues that this would help an estimated 800,000 young workers who are due to enter a “barren jobs market” due to the pandemic, and would put apprenticeships “right at the heart” of the country’s economic recovery. The CSJ also warns that without private and public sector intervention, apprenticeships could cease altogether, as only 39 per cent continued as normal throughout lockdown.

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Earlier this month, The Yorkshire Post reported that more than one in 10 young people in parts of the region have found themselves out of work during the Covid-19 crisis amid fears that some of the most impoverished communities will once again bear the brunt of a recession.

Research produced for Centre for Cities think-tank showed that youth unemployment in parts of the region is among the highest nationally, with Doncaster, Bradford and Hull all badly hit.

Today’s report, entitled Trade Secrets: How to reboot apprenticeships and kick-start the recovery, warns that younger, low-skilled workers have been ignored by the apprenticeship system in favour of older, more qualified workers.

It suggests individuals with a degree-level qualification should instead have access to student finance to support the costs of their degree-level apprenticeships.

Skills Village Apprentices L to r.. Mark Brown, Peter Howard and Josh Walker working on the base of their new building at High Eastfield farm site in Scarborough. Pic: Gary Longbottom

The CSJ also raises concerns that young, newly appointed apprentices may be among the first to be made redundant over the next few months, as the economic crisis looks set to continue, and adds that the Government must fund the training costs associated with all 16-18-year old apprentices.

Overall, the think tank proposes 20 recommendations for updating the system, including using apprenticeships to fill public sector vacancies in nursing and teaching, offering a time-limited wage subsidy, and introducing a concessionary scheme to help disadvantaged apprentices meet their travelling costs.

Gillian Keegan, Minister for skills, said the Government was providing £2,000 to employers for each new apprentice they hire aged under 25 and £111 million this year to triple the number of traineeships available. She said: “Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to get ahead in a wide range of exciting industries and will also play a vital role in delivering the skills our economy needs to grow after coronavirus.”

Tory chairman of the Education Select Committee Robert Halfon said any young person who wants an apprenticeship and has the skills to complete one, should be able to have access to one.

He said: “Apprenticeships change lives. They combine a real job with training so that people can earn while they learn.

“I was over the moon when the Prime Minister recently expressed his support for an apprenticeship guarantee - something I have been campaigning for.

“I want us to work towards being able to guarantee that any young person who wants an apprenticeship, and who has the right skills and qualifications to complete one, can make it happen.”