Real apprenticeships: creating a revolution in English skills

Document type
Corporate author(s)
Boston Consulting Group
Sutton Trust
Date of publication
1 October 2013
Education and Skills, Children and Young People, Employment
Social welfare
Material type

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The English education system is failing nearly half its young people by providing inadequate vocational opportunities. Across the population as a whole, more than four in ten people have only low level qualifications – below Level 3 (A-level standard) – with little value in the labour market. The UK labour market faces a fundamental skills mismatch. For example, there are five Hair and Beauty qualifications awarded for every vacancy, whereas there are three vacancies for every Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) qualification awarded. In particular, we train too few technicians.

Evidence shows that, in order to tackle significant skills shortages, the UK needs to create between 150,000 and 300,000 quality apprenticeships (level 3 or higher) each year. These should be a mix of new jobs for young people aged 16-24 who are at school, college or entering the labour market and be offered directly by employers or be innovative apprenticeships linked to small firms and training providers. This report recommends radically expanding apprenticeships, with up to 300,000 extra new apprenticeship starts each year; the vast majority should be three years at level 3, with some four years at level 4, and no more than 10% at level 2, with a two-year duration. The new apprenticeships should be “dual-track”, combining workplace training with off-site study, and lead to an occupational or trade qualification, such as a “Professional Certificate in Automotive Engineering”, which would set the minimum standards required for further education leading to a Licence to Practise in a trade or to open a business.

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