Ofsted chief inspector fears apprenticeships being lost to foreigners

Sir Michael Wilshaw is expected to warn the apprenticeship sector that failure to make apprenticeships more appealing will result in relying on overseas workers instead of young English talent.


Make apprenticeships more attractive

The Ofsted chief is set to make a speech at the British Chamber of Commerce conference, where he will address the need to make apprenticeships more ‘highly regarded’.

Wilshaw believes that English employers and training providers should be taking a leaf out of Germany and Switzerland’s books, whereby they give their apprentices maximum responsibility, including meeting clients, working on expensive equipment and carrying out important procedures.

He is also expected to continue his criticism of the current apprenticeship sector, echoing statements he made during his recent Apprenticeships: developing skills for future prosperity report. Wilshaw will condemn the lack of stimulating apprenticeships on offer, with many apprentices spending their days making cups of tea and cleaning floors.

“We found too many examples of apprenticeships unworthy of the name,” Wilshaw is expected to say.

“An apprenticeship isn’t endless tea-making, shelf-stacking or envelope-stuffing. It is not an induction course or a six-week in-house training scheme. Worryingly, we even found examples of people who had been put on apprenticeships without even knowing it.

“Visiting Switzerland last year, I was struck by how well apprenticeships work and how highly regarded they are.

“Two-thirds of young Swiss who leave compulsory education at 15 embark on a vocational programme which incorporates an apprenticeship. In Germany, it is a similar figure. In this country, only a quarter of all apprenticeship starts are in the 16 to 18 age group, although there are currently seven applicants for every apprenticeship. Only 5% of youngsters age 16-18 start an apprenticeship. These are miserable statistics.”

Wilshaw will then send a warning out to the English apprenticeship sector.

“If we don’t fix the apprenticeship system we will continue to have major problems in recruitment. Local firms won’t be able to fill vacancies without looking outside their local area or even overseas, and local youngsters won’t be able to find work because they don’t have the right skills and don’t know how to access the right training.”