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‘Don’t waste taxpayer cash on worthless training courses’

The Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) is calling on the Government to clamp down on substandard apprenticeships and ensure that taxpayer's cash goes towards courses that will get people jobs, following the publication of a report on Adult Apprenticeships.

Iain Macdonald, ECA Head of Education and Training

The National Audit Office report on Adult Apprenticeships (published in February) acknowledges that the rate of return on adult trainees is £18 for each £1 of government spending, and that this could be increased by more astute targeting of resources.

Iain Macdonald, ECA Head of Education and Training (pictured), says: “As long as short-course and low-level apprenticeships receive government funding, the economic return from taxpayer investment won’t fulfil its potential. The ECA believes that funding should only be used for courses that really do prepare an individual for a career, whether in a catering firm, a manufacturing plant or as an electrician. In the craft sector, the home of apprenticeships, the minimum standard for working independently is completing a Level 3 Apprenticeship.

“A rigorous Level 3 apprenticeship can not be compared to a 12 week training course that, in the ordinary course of events, would be funded wholly by the employer as a basic training and staff induction activity. It is ridiculous that 20% of so-called ‘apprenticeships’ can be completed in less than six months, yet are considered as worthy of funding equivalent to a four-year advanced apprenticeship which is acknowledged by industry as being the standard for entry. Despite rhetoric, part of the problem is that Government has been slow to clamp down on apprenticeships that don’t even last a year.”

The ECA says that industry should take a leading role in defining what constitutes an apprenticeship, rather than the National Apprenticeship Service or Government.

“Ultimately, apprenticeships are about preparing people for work, so it should be obvious that employers should play the lead in defining them. Industries like construction have a proven track record for training. These industries need specialist support, and the NAS is too thinly spread to have a meaningful impact on quality. The Government should transfer the functions of the NAS to the relevant Sector Skills Councils, if it is determined to give taxpayers real value for money and give people a qualification that will genuinely lead to a career,” concludes Macdonald.

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