24 August 2012 by Ian Gurling, FIA Awarding Organisation Manager

Recently I attended a government review on apprentices and it appears from the comments raised that the question of funding is an enduring problem across all sectors.

There is common confusion over the levels of funding available. At what point does a fully funded apprenticeship become a part-funded apprenticeship with contributions from the employer? And how much is required? Unfortunately the aim of the meeting was fact finding so no satisfactory answer was offered.

Picture of Sir Alan Sugar on The Apprentice
Above: Sir Alan Sugar

Another area of concern was the calibre of the potential apprentice. Fortunately long gone are the days of the ‘Youth Training Scheme’, where employers grasped the opportunity to take on a cheap labour force under the guise of helping 16 - 17 year olds make the transition from school to the workplace.

Here it seems that the dividing factor is perhaps the industry they wish to work in. The care sector representative reported receiving numerous applications for her apprentice placements of which 20% were selected to interview. However, none of the interviewees showed up on the day and the places were re-advertised.

In contrast, a potential apprentice applying for placement to become a chef read the small print and realised that at the end of the first year of her level 2 apprenticeship she had no guarantee of employment, and it was too late to register for another year as an apprentice at level 3.

But what of the fire industry apprentice? Here the obstacle to be overcome is the availability of training courses. Colleges will obviously offer courses according to the facilities they have available and demand. For the fire modules this is such that only two centres across the UK currently offer the training. However, the centre in Birmingham does include block release, a week at a time in a centralised learning environment. The cost of staying in the area for that week is not included in the funding allowance.

Apprenticeships represent what is generally seen as a success story for the government. The optimist in me would like to think that the review meeting last week will help to overcome the problems described, what is more likely is that it is a cost cutting exercise.