Thursday, 13 Feb 2014 10:01 GMT

Warning over apprenticeship funding

At every opportunity David Cameron talks up the rise of apprenticeships in the last few months, and with good reason, as youth unemployment affects one in five people aged 16-24.

That equates to more than 900,000 youngsters. The good news is that the number of apprenticeship vacancies in the printing, engineering, and manufacturing industries has risen by 15 percent last autumn. Around 3,930 apprenticeship vacancies were advertised in the three months from August to October 2013 in the industry and allied trades, with each vacancy attracting 15 applicants on average says the National Apprenticeship Service.

The service also reveals that apprenticeships are attracting increasing numbers of applications from female candidates. Online applications from women across all industries have increased by more than half since 2012, with 216,100 applications made by females in the last three month period of 2013, a rise of 55 percent, as the industry increasingly takes on more a service role with design, marketing, and customer service.

However the good news is tempered by criticism from Jonathan Ledger of Proskills UK. The national skills academy warns that changes made to the way apprenticeships are funded could put off small and medium sized companies from taking on more young people. Ledger reasons that with more funding being diverted to employers, they will then be asked for a greater cash contribution towards their apprentices.

They usually spend one day a week at college and work around 35 hours a week for a take home pay of approximately £93.80

Says Ledger: “In Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement, it was announced that apprenticeship funding will be given direct to employers in future, rather than training providers or colleges. In line with other funding strands, the Chancellor also revealed that employers will increasingly need to make a significant cash contribution to apprentices’ external training costs.

“Most employers already make a significant, often unappreciated and unrecognised financial contribution to an apprentices’ on the job training by providing hands on skills development and mentoring, as well as bearing the cost of the wages, tools, and equipment they use. And yet in most cases, employers do not receive a share of the funding. So it’s not hard to see why the government has chosen to extend its employer ownership mantra to apprenticeships and demand more employer investment.”

The Proskills manager says that if youth unemployment is to decrease and young people are to be given more opportunities to work and contribute positively to society, then more money needs to be invested in funding providers and colleges who support apprenticeship schemes.

The current rate of pay for an apprentice aged 16 to 18 is £2.68 per hour. They usually spend one day a week at college and work around 35 hours a week for a take home pay of approximately £93.80.