Are employers ‘misusing’ apprenticeships?

A new study by UCL Institute of Education (IoE) and the Nuffield Foundation has found that government funding is being used to support the training of existing adult employees rather than new apprentices.

The study, Does apprenticeship work for adults? examined government-supported apprenticeships in England, focusing on the experiences and perspectives of apprentices aged 25 and over and their employers. It also considered training, upskilling and reskilling of adult workers more generally.

It calls for a “radical rethink” of what the government calls an “apprenticeship” to avoid it becoming devalued.

Professor Alison Fuller, who led the study, said: “Clearly adult apprenticeships work in one sense. They are widely supported by employers who see them as a way to reward and build an effective workforce to meet future business demands. But while I welcome the government’s commitment to expanding apprenticeships, this has been at the expense of other adult skills, with non-apprenticeship learning reduced by up to a quarter. Many adult apprentices will have undertaken vocational training prior to starting their apprenticeship. Without good adult skills training, many older employees may not have the confidence or skills to enter an apprenticeship in the future.”

David Hughes, chief executive of adult education body Niace, said: “I am concerned, like the IoE, that the apprenticeship experience for too many people is a simple assessment process of existing skills. That is not what an apprenticeship should be. The apprenticeship programme should be part of a wider picture of state, employer and individual investment, rather than the only answer to the government’s ambition to raise productivity and support people into work.”