The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (BISC) has called for urgent reform to the Government's apprenticeship programmes, in a report published today.
The Committee's Apprenticeships report is the conclusion of an 11-month inquiry and highlights a number of areas in which the BISC believes the government could improve the efficacy of its National Apprenticeship Service (NAS).
Adrian Bailey, chairman of BISC, said the apprenticeship programme can play a key role in resolving some of the country's most pressing issues by creating a more skilled workforce, increasing employment and generating sustainable economic growth.
"For these reasons, the government has, quite rightly, made apprenticeships a priority and has devoted significant resources to help them thrive," he said.
But also Bailey warned that money does not guarantee success.
"The apprenticeship programme needs clarity, oversight and, in these straightened times, to demonstrate that it is providing value for money.
"There are many areas that require closer scrutiny, careful monitoring or even complete reform."
The conclusions and recommendations the BISC made in the report focused on four areas: government policy; delivery and funding; preparing for apprenticeships; and value for money.
With regards to policy, the BISC report said there needs to be more clarity and urged Government to define the overarching strategy and purpose of the apprenticeship schemes, while at the same time focusing on quality over quantity.
"Without clarity, there is only confusion," commented Bailey. "Confusion as to what the government is trying to achieve, what apprentices should be focusing on and what employers should be offering."
Bailey said that without a clear strategy, an apprenticeship programme will not achieve its goals and lay open to abuse.
"An increase in numbers will always be welcome," he added. "A guarantee of quality will always be vital."
The number of organisations involved in the delivery of the programmes was also criticised. The Committee recommended a simpler more efficient delivery system while at the same time recognising that apprenticeships are not just for the young - a fact that the report said the current funding structure does not reflect.
The BISC report called for more to be done to promote apprenticeship schemes as a credible career alternative to further and higher education, insisting that it is the responsibility of the government and the NAS to make sure they are presented in this way.
The final area of concern for the BISC is how much value for money the NAS is achieving.
Bailey said: "It is a time of austerity for Government, individuals, for families and for businesses. But it is important that we continue to invest in skills.
"We heard evidence of excessive profits at the public's expense, of a government paying out too much money far too easily and of a genuine lack of genuine value for money being provided by apprenticeship schemes.
"This is unacceptable."
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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