SummitSkills supplied the following statement to BBC News Northern Ireland for its news item about 'programme-led apprenticeships', broadcast on 21 Sept 2012:
It is clear to SummitSkills and the employers we work with that apprenticeships work best when the apprentice is employed-status from the start, studies for a qualification proven to meet employers’ needs and when their employer engages fully with the entire process.
This approach enables the apprentice to combine their studies with practical experience and training gained through their employment. It is this combination of skills, knowledge and experience which shape an individual into the skilled worker that employers look for.
We represented this view to DEL in the run-up to the announcement in June 2009 concerning programme-led apprenticeships, as we believed that these could potentially reduce the perceived value of real employer-led apprenticeships, as well as letting down young people taking the programme. In fact we were not alone in this view, as with several other Sector Skills Councils we presented a concerted position.
‘Programme-led’ apprenticeships focus primarily on delivering the college-based element of learning, which makes up around 20% of the experience that an apprentice needs. As a result, students completing a programme-led apprenticeship are ill-equipped for the jobs they want to take up and most are understandably very disappointed at how difficult it is to get a job.
We are disappointed, but not surprised, to hear of at least one frustrated employer offering an employed apprenticeship but unable to find any takers: all the potential candidates for his real job are busy on full-time courses which are unlikely to lead to employment.
We support employers who are urging DEL to take action and set the balance right. DEL should prevent colleges from actively promoting their programme-led apprenticeships, which can lead to employment dead ends, at the expense of employed-status apprenticeships. We would welcome the opportunity to work with DEL, including through our employer forum, to resolve this serious and worrying development. Northern Ireland must recruit the talented new employees it needs to join the workforce, and make the most of young people’s potential.
Northern Ireland contact: Bob Blake
T: 07834 868969