No. 2, Session 2008-09
5 December 2008

Impact of economic downturn could mean not enough quality apprenticeship placements, warn MPs

The economic downturn could have a serious impact on the ability of the Learning and Skills Council to secure apprenticeship placements for each suitably qualified young person who wants one, say MPs in a report on the Draft Apprenticeships Bill, published today.

The Children, Schools and Families Committee says it has grave doubts about whether a statutory duty on the Learning and Skills Council (and successor bodies) to provide sufficient apprenticeship placements can be met, or met without compromising quality.

The Government's commitment to supply sufficient apprenticeship places is impossible to achieve without there being a huge expansion of public sector apprenticeships.

The provision in the Draft Bill to increase the supply of apprenticeship placements in the public sector is a welcome step and the Committee says there is significant potential for public sector organisations to use existing posts to provide apprenticeship placements.

Group apprenticeship schemes could become one of the principal means of encouraging small employers to offer apprenticeships, and the Committee recommends that the Government assesses their potential and develops models for funding and operating them.

The Committee also recommends that legislation on the provision of careers advice is made stronger by requiring schools to include clear and comprehensive information about apprenticeships in materials available to learners.

The Chairman of the Committee, Barry Sheerman MP, said:

"Overall, we welcome the Draft Bill, which will contribute to promoting greater awareness of apprenticeships, particularly when the spotlight so often falls on other 14-19 sector initiatives and reforms.

"But we raise serious concerns about the ability of the Learning and Skills Council to secure sufficient and appropriate placements; the impact of the current economic climate on this duty must be addressed. It's now for the public sector to step up and play its part in boosting apprenticeship opportunities, with quality at the heart of every placement.

"Looking further ahead, we urge the Government to think on a larger scale and not to assume that the provisions in the Draft Bill will fully meet the needs of young people during a time of economic challenge. The planned transfer of responsibility for funding education and training for 16 to 18 year olds from the Learning and Skills Council to local authorities by 2010 is a dramatic change and must be proceeded with cautiously."



The Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills are both responsible for the Draft Apprenticeships Bill, which is expected to form part of a wider Bill on education and skills in the 2008-09 parliamentary session. The select committees for these departments carried out separate scrutiny of the Draft Bill on aspects within their own remits and both publish their reports today.