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Government review to call for apprenticeship shake-up

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The Telegraph reports

The apprenticeship system is blighted by a host of image, access and quality problems that present a “huge challenge” to encouraging more small companies to take on young trainees, according to the author of a Government review to be published next month.

Jason Holt, a jewellery entrepreneur, said apprenticeship training providers, who are supposed to link employers with suitable apprentices, were too frequently “following the money” rather than presenting businesses with suitable candidates.

“Employers know about apprenticeships when a training provider knocks on their door saying ‘would you like an apprentice?’ It needs to be about the relationship between the employer and apprentice rather than employer and provider,” he said.

A call for businesses to be given “ownership of the funding” is expected to feature among 15 recommendations in his report.

Government support for apprenticeships could come via a national insurance contributions discount for companies rather than from training providers, for example.

“Channelling the money through employers will make them push for value,” he said. Mr Holt, who set up an accredited jewellery training programme which teaches around 1,000 students each year in response to a skills shortage in the industry, said there was a “sense of cluelessness” about apprenticeships among most small firms.

Businesses are also being offered poor candidates because of a “stigma” attached to apprenticeships among schools, children and parents.

“[The perception is] become an apprentice if you’ve failed academically. It’s a perfectly viable alternative to higher education, but it’s not seen that way at the moment. So you haven’t got the best candidates and [small companies] want the best people.”

Mr Holt is also likely to call for banks, accountants and trade bodies to help promote apprenticeships to small businesses, with a role for the latter in helping them to design appropriate courses and qualifications.

“We need to empower the people employers listen to.”

The Business Department recently announced that former Dragons’ Den investor Doug Richard will lead a separate review, this time on the quality of apprenticeships.