Lacking skills? Get an apprenticeship, say businesses

A survey suggests apprenticeships are the perfect way to get started in business. But are there enough of them to go around?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 01 Feb 2012
We might have heard all about A-Levels yesterday, but it’s been a while since we’ve heard any mention of the other A-word from the Government: surprising, really, given Wednesday’s disappointing unemployment figures, which showed young people are finding it particularly difficult to secure jobs. But a new survey has suggested that businesses see apprenticeships as one of the best ways to give young people the skills they need to get on in the business world. Which, given another report this week poured scorn on the education system’s ability to prepare the yoof for the world of work, is downright encouraging.

The survey, by employment and skills experts Working Links, showed that businesses don’t necessarily want their young recruits to come bearing A-Level certificates: apparently, when they’re recruiting young people, 86% of employers look for potential, rather than hard-and-fast skills (which is a bit at odds with yesterday’s survey, which said 47% of employers would be nervous about employing school leavers because they’d be worried they didn’t have the right skills. But anyway). In fact, it seems employers are prepared to be very accommodating indeed: only 9% said they wouldn’t hire someone if they had poor literacy or numeracy skills. Blimey – what would put them off?

The Government is tremendously keen on the idea of apprenticeships as a way of giving young people the grounding they need to get on in business, and it’s promised £1.4bn a year to prove it. But young people clearly don’t feel they’re well-enough informed about them: the survey showed that 70% feel there aren’t enough apprenticeships to meet demand, while only a quarter said they’d been given information on apprenticeships by their school, compared to 70% who got information on college courses.

Now clearly, with the unemployment rate among 16-24-year-olds now nearing 20% and growth rates slowing, creating apprenticeship places is easier said than done for cash-strapped businesses. But a while ago, MT wrote about Apprenticeship Training  Agencies, a scheme run by the Government designed to create 14,000 new training places between now and 2015. ATAs are a series of regional organisations which take the complications out of hosting an apprentice: the agency pays them, sorts their contracts out, does all the admin, then invoices the business for their wages. Not a bad option, if you’re one of those businesses that would like to take on an apprentice, but doesn’t have the time to go through all the hassle…

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