Government see apprenticeships as 'vital' for UK's financial recovery

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson yesterday (03/06/20) said that a possible way to alleviate the problem of COVID-19 induced unemployment amongst younger people is to guarantee apprentices, which will in turn boost the economy.

At a press conference, Mr Johnson said that young people, in particular, are at risk of facing being “out of a job for a long time”. Mr Johnson added that it is “vital” to offer such apprentices to young people as it would help aid the UK’s financial recovery.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that people aged 16-24 years old have seen the biggest reduction in their working hours since the outbreak of COVID-19. As well as the Resolution Foundation finding that 16-24 year olds are twice as likely to hold jobs in sectors that have been shut down due to the pandemic.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE, CEO City & Guilds Group a vocational education company said:

We welcome the announcement from the Prime Minister guaranteeing apprenticeships for all young people whose job prospects have been damaged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Already, huge numbers of young people across the UK have been put out of work and we must ensure that they are not left behind as the country looks to its recovery.

However, as we start on that path towards economic recovery, it is critical that any apprenticeships are guided by employer demand – matching training provision with the skills needed by employers both today and in the future. We must not lose sight of the purpose of the long-lasting, quality apprenticeship and End Point Assessment system that we have worked so hard to build over the past decade.

We would also be wrong to treat apprenticeships as a silver bullet – they are just one part of the jigsaw. With unemployment levels reaching record highs, we need to ensure there are different solutions available to meet the needs of both individuals and employers. Those displaced from certain sectors may instead require short-term training courses or assistance with identifying and showcasing transferable skills as they move between industries. Rather than focusing solely on apprenticeships, we need a degree of flexibility and better availability of government funding. We ask that the Government consider how best to allocate funding and proposals such as the Adult Education Budget, National Skills Fund and National Retraining Scheme to ensure that these are available in the right places and ensure that people have – and are able to demonstrate – the skills that employers are most in need of as we emerge from the crisis.

However, Becci Newton, deputy director of public policy at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) sees this announcement as a double-edged sword. As, on the one hand, it is good that young people are exposed to education via an apprenticeship but at the same time this could put even more pressure on employers. Due to this move, companies will have to invest in training for the apprentices at a time when businesses are considering redundancies.

In January, HRreview spoke to Aaron Jeffries, apprenticeship programme lead at Covea Insurance regarding the apprenticeship market and the levy.