Ann Watson, managing director of specialist awarding organisation, EAL (EMTA Awards Limited), welcomes the latest commitment to raise the profile of apprenticeships with open arms and hopes this will achieve greater parity between skills education and the non-vocational route.

John Hayes, Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, announced yesterday (22/06) the latest business-backed initiative to raise the status of apprenticeships, with the introduction of the Apprentice Society and Apprentice Card which is supported by the National Union of Students and key industry players.  Watson comments: “I am absolutely delighted to see businesses – who appreciate the real value of an apprentice – taking the lead to achieve greater respect for the vocational route.  Giving apprentices access to the same entitlements as the current NUS scheme affords academic students is a crucial first step to tackling the inequalities between the two routes.  Work-based learners should absolutely receive the same discounts, events and advice that academic students have had for so long.  This will hopefully be a step in the right direction to showing our young people that the vocational and academic route is on the same page and both are of equal value.”

Our European neighbours have a much better track record when it comes to apprenticeship training and the UK needs to continue working towards achieving this model.  Watson goes on to say: “There are still many barriers which stand in the way of achieving total understanding to the benefits of apprenticeships.  Schools have a crucial part to play in raising awareness about the opportunities and benefits of the vocational route, rather than simply channeling students down the path of higher education.  Schools need to engage with local employers and parents when giving careers advice, as employers are able to demonstrate at first hand that there is much to gain from becoming an apprentice.  This will be key if we are to reeducate across the generations and showcase the plethora of opportunities opened up by a skilled apprenticeship.”

The Government has frequently signaled its support for increasing the number of apprenticeship places during the last year, hoping that this will enable the UK to manufacture its way out of recession.  But Watson concludes: “It’s a question of quality over quantity.  To have a meaningful impact, additional investment must be concentrated in delivering skilled apprenticeship places that include invaluable ‘on-the-job’ experience.  We will only succeed in raising the prestige of the vocational route if apprenticeships are seen to deliver long-term job opportunities.




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