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Modern Apprenticeships

25 February 2003 - A new National Modern Apprenticeship Taskforce has been launched to help expand modern apprenticeships (MA's) and plug the skills shortages in key sectors.

The Taskforce, which will be led by Sir Roy Gardner, will look closely at increasing the opportunities for young people to participate in modern apprenticeships, and also at how employers can be engaged more fully in the programme.

Gordon Brown and Charles Clarke urged employers to reach out and compete for new recruits through the MA system.

Chancellor Gordon Brown said:

"Skills are Britain's achilles heel - 8 million people have below Level 2 qualifications, including 20 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds. And skills are critical to an individual's chance of success - to push a teenager into the world of work today without any qualification is to put them at lifetime risk of poverty, failure and wasted potential. A skilled workforce is also essential for the wider health of our economy. As global competition challenges every industry and almost every service, a flexible labour market is an even more necessary means of achieving full employment and higher productivity.

"Modern Apprenticeships, which were all but dying out recently, are now flourishing with 220,000 young people now gaining skills and qualifications through the scheme. But more must be done and that is why the new Taskforce is so crucial - bringing together employers, trade unions, Government and the voluntary sector to ensure that the Modern Apprenticeship programme continues to grow and thrive"

Education and Skills Secretary Charles Clarke said:

"At a time when many employers report skill shortage problems we need boldly to address the training gaps in the present and future workforce. Modern Apprenticeships have a key role to play in giving young people the skills they need to do the job the high standards employers require. Much current Modern Apprenticeship provision is superb, indeed many Task Force members represent businesses with world class training programmes. Our vital task is to continue to strive to match that in all sectors and businesses, where recruitment and achievement is not what we would expect. We set up the Modern Apprenticeship Advisory Committee chaired by Sir John Cassels which reported in 2001 to help us do that.

"The Task Force announced today will build on the excellent progress so far in implementing the Cassels reforms by focussing on selling the clear benefits of Modern Apprenticeships within the employer community. In addition they will recommend modifications to the programme where there are clear blockages to employer participation."

Sir Roy Gardner said:

"We have a significant responsibility here to British industry and the economy generally to tackle the skills gap now facing many companies.

"At Centrica, about half of the 5,000 engineers we are recruiting at our British Gas business over five years will be through the Modern Apprenticeships scheme. I am sure that the first class team of business leaders we have recruited on to the task force will be able to devise measures to encourage many more employers to similarly utilise the scheme."

Bryan Sanderson, Chair of the Learning and Skills Council, said:

"We are establishing Modern Apprenticeships as the principal vocational route to drive up skills in the workplace and help businesses become more productive, innovative and competitive. However, we do need more employers to run MA programmes - for their own benefit, for the benefit of the economy and for an inclusive society.

"We have the demand from young people. Some 60,000 have responded to our recent information campaign and we need more employers to join us.

"So the Learning and Skills Council very much welcome the establishment of the Modern Apprenticeship Task Force with its remit of getting business to back the programme and I look forward to working closely with Sir Roy and his team to generate greater employer involvement in Modern Apprenticeships." The aims of the Taskforce are:

- To increase the opportunities available for young people to participate in high quality Modern Apprenticeship programmes with a range of employers; and

- To recommend effective and innovative ways of ensuring that Modern Apprenticeship programmes respond to changing needs of employers and young people.

The Taskforce will also look to encourage more employers to take on MA's; increase the diversity of employers offering MA's, with a focus on smaller employers; advise the Government and the Learning and Skills Council on forward strategy; and recommend proposals to make MA's more effective.

Previous article:

13 November 2000 - Modern Apprenticeships appear to have contributed to the largest number of apprenticeships in the UK since 1993. There will be 215,000 people on apprenticeships this year.

Addressing the TUC's Learning Centre Conference in London, Lifelong Learning Minister Malcolm Wicks said:

"The big increase in the numbers of young people doing apprenticeships is very good news. Modern Apprenticeships have made considerable headway into sectors like accountancy and childcare where there was no previous apprenticeship tradition, and I welcome the role that trade unions have played in developing Modern Apprenticeships.

"The response of the TUC to the Union Learning Fund has also been tremendous with nearly 7000 people benefiting from it over the past two years, including 2000 union learning representatives being trained, 26 new learning centres opened and 91 accredited courses and qualifications established.

"Unions have shown considerable energy and imagination in promoting learning in the workplace. They have demonstrated time and time again that they can really add value to the lifelong learning agenda. I congratulate the army of Union Learning Representatives promoting learning in the workplace on the impressive results they have achieved, particularly amongst those who are not typical learners and those with basic skills needs.

"We must continue to focus on people rather than equipment. Unions represent every type of worker in the UK and encouraging and supporting people is their trademark. It is essential that they continue to lead the way on this."

The following table shows the number of apprentices in employment since 1986:

Numbers of apprentices in employment (thousands)

Year   All   Males   Females

1986   316   261   55
1987   322   264   58
1988   341   268   73
1989   373   308   65
1990   357   298   59
1991   339   270   69
1992   318   254   63
1993   236   191   45
1994   209   167   42
1995   180   141   40
1996   174   138   36
1997   176   141   35
1998   191   154   37
1999   197   166   30
2000   215   179   35

Source: Labour Force Survey, 1986-2000, United Kingdom

It is worth noting that this improvement almost entirely refers to male apprenticeships - female uptakes remain comparatively low. Also the overall totals still compare unfavourably with the late 1980s/early 1990s.

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