The government cannot afford to take their eye off the ball when it comes to apprenticeships, according the editor of FE Week.

Nick Linford has cautioned that, while it the figures show that the government is delivering in terms of quantity, the quality of apprenticeships needs to be improved.

He said: “One argument is that they definitely have quantity … but questions around quality have been raised along the way and they clearly need to be dealt with. The argument is that if they’re not dealt with, the whole brand is damaged.”
The government has been promoting apprenticeships in an effort to deal with growing youth unemployment and as a means to push for greater inclusion in the workplace for young people.

According to a recent survey by the National Audit Office (NAO) the number of apprenticeships doubled in the years 2006-11, with the number of people completing their schemes rising from 47 per cent up to 75 per cent over that period.

However, the study also shows that in the year 2010-11, one in five apprenticeships lasted for six months or less while three per cent lasted under three months.

Although the government plans to introduce a policy that would prevent 16-18 year-olds embarking on a an apprenticeship that would last less than a year, industry figures have suggested that shorter apprenticeships can be beneficial to young people.

“Naturally, some courses will be more in-depth than others, but that doesn’t mean that they are pointless,” said Spencer Mehlman, managing director of

“Provided the courses are rigorously assessed and students look closely at what a course entails, then even short courses that mix theoretical and practical learning can be useful in preparing people for work”

Furthermore, NAO figures revealed that the majority of apprenticeships over the past four years have gone to the over-25s, with this group accounting for 68 per cent of the new apprenticeships in the years 2006-11.