‘‘Only 18% of schools educate students on apprenticeships,’’ claims Barclays chief

On 15th July, Apprentice Eye attended a House of Commons event hosted by the Young Fabians Education Network (YFEN).

The Young Fabians are the under-31 section of The Fabian Society, Britain’s oldest political think tank. The center-left group has loose connections to the Labour Party.

Entitled ”Beyond 3m: A successful apprenticeships system for the UK,” the event was led by a panel of apprenticeship experts, including John Woodcock MP, who is currently serving as Shadow Education Minister for Young People and MP for Barrow and Furness.

Also on the panel were Mike Thompson – head of careers at Barclays, Ashley McCaul – chief executive at employment organisation Skills for Growth and Tom Berwick – managing director at New Work Skills.

The aim of the event was to discuss a variety of issues concerning apprenticeships, including government involvement in apprenticeships, ensuring that apprenticeships offer progression routes into good jobs and vocational systems overseas.

One of the biggest talking points during the discussion was the recently announced apprenticeship levy. In George Osborne’s summer budget, the Chancellor confirmed that all large firms will start paying an apprenticeship tax to fund 3m new apprenticeships by 2020.

Surprisingly, Labour MP John Woodcock agreed with idea, stating that if the Conservative Party ‘‘do it in the right way then the idea should be welcome.’’ Woodcock did claim however that Osborne’s apprenticeship tax is an ‘‘early new labour’’ idea.

Despite giving his approval towards the levy, Woodcock did state a warning towards the Conservative government.

If those apprenticeships do not genuinely embed people in the world of work and set them up for a future profession, then we are doing a disservice to those young people coming into them,” said Woodcock. Tom Berwick came out in support of the apprenticeship levy, but warned the UK against making the same financial errors that the French government made when funding its apprenticeship schemes.

The Labour MP then touched on apprenticeships in general, claiming that the word ‘‘apprenticeships’’ has become a real go-to word in education, but if apprenticeship programmes aren’t ‘‘entering young people into the workplace, then they are doing a disservice to young people.’’

As head of the Barclays’ apprenticeship programme, Thompson came armed with research and statistics, firstly claiming that ‘‘half of young people in the UK can’t gain an apprenticeship due to a lack of GCSEs,’’ despite a number of apprenticeship programmes not requiring GCSE qualifications.

Most companies require you to have A to C in maths and English, which discounts nearly half the young people in this country who don’t have that,” cliamed Thompson.

Thompson referred to his research once more as the discussion turned towards careers advice in schools. After travelling to hundreds of schools, sixth forms and colleges, Thompson’s research has found that only 18 per cent of UK schools educate their students on apprenticeships.

The panel then turned its attention to apprenticeship systems overseas. Ashley McCaul, who said earlier in the discussion that 30 per cent of Skills for Growth’s team consisted of apprentices, revealed more about her research trip to Germany.

McCaul claimed that Germany’s apprenticeship system ”has an incredibly grown up way of managing quality improvement” compared to Britain.

The chief executive explained that instead of using statistics and research to encourage children to undertake apprenticeships, the German government are hiring educational psychologists to help children make the transition from school to work.

The national minimum wage for apprentices was also touched upon, with the panel unanimously declaring that £2.73 an hour is ‘‘nowhere near enough’’ for young workers to live on.