As part of the government’s plan to help Britain succeed in the global race, the Prime Minister will today meet with over 500 young people who he will describe as the future of Britain’s economic prosperity.

He will announce that a number of the UK’s leading businesses have signed up to deliver new and improved apprenticeships, as well as thousands of new youth vocational training schemes.

The Prime Minister will say: “We know that the economy is turning a corner; GDP figures last week showed the third consecutive quarter of growth and we know we have record levels of employment. But we cannot for one moment be complacent. I’m determined we finish the job we started.”

Addressing hundreds of apprentices, the Prime Minister is expected to tell them: “I said earlier this month that I want us to deal with the scourge of youth unemployment by giving young people more chances and choices in life. This goes to the heart of my vision for this country: backing hard working people who want to get on in life and making sure Britain competes and thrives in the global race.

“So I am really excited to be here today. What we’re announcing is going to make a massive difference to thousands of young people’s lives. It involves 2 things.

“One: we’re saying; if you want an apprenticeship, we’re going to make sure you do the best apprenticeship in the world. The reforms we’re announcing today will put employers in the driving seat and ensure that we deliver high quality training that supports you and our economy for years to come. And as the range of companies signed up today shows, these are apprenticeships in different industries and sectors meaning people have a real choice about the career they want and our economy is balanced.

“Two: we’re saying if you need help preparing for an apprenticeship or want to get straight into the world of work, we’ll help you too. We’ve been talking to some of the biggest companies in Britain, massive global brands where young people have a real opportunity to progress up the ladder, and they have said they want to offer 100,000 vocational training schemes for young people.

“Taken together, these two things aren’t a cure all. They’re not going to abolish youth unemployment overnight. And there’s still much more we need to do – and believe me, this government will do it. But this is a massive step forward for young people and for our country.”

The changes to apprenticeships are a result of the Richard Review, with an emphasis on academic rigour to rival higher and further education.

How new apprenticeships will work

More than sixty companies have already signed up to be ‘Trailblazers’ and are ready to go live with developing the new apprenticeship scheme. The new apprenticeships will commence as early as the end of 2014.

Apprenticeships will in the future last for a minimum of one year and will:

  • put employers in the driving seat of apprenticeships; in future, apprenticeships will be based on standards designed by employers, to meet the specific needs of their industry
  • radically simplify the system; the new employer-led standards will be short and easy to understand – they will describe the skills and knowledge that an individual needs to be fully competent in an occupation
  • increase the quality of apprenticeships; an apprentice will need to demonstrate their competence through rigorous independent assessment and more thorough academic assessment – including stepping up the maths and English requirements; apprentices will be graded – pass, merit, distinction – putting them on a par with full time education
  • require a minimum of 20% off-the-job training – time away from their workstation to focus on training

Our ambition is that all new apprentices will be on the new standards from 2017 to 2018.

In addition, new vocational training schemes are being pledged by Accenture, BAE Systems, Barclays, BT, Centrica, Diageo, GSK, HSBC, Kingfisher, M&S, National Grid, Tesco, Unilever, and WPP. The intention is to involve the supply chain of each of these large companies, including SMEs, delivering an ‘accelerator effect’. The aspiration is to offer 100,000 work training opportunities over the next 2 years, and to encourage employers across the country to do more to help unemployed young people.

Building on the work of The Prince’s Trust

The initiative will be based on existing successful programmes run by The Prince’s Trust, and complements existing government initiatives to tackle youth unemployment. The work training opportunities will include intensive vocational training, mentoring and on-the-job experience. 3 in 4 young people on Prince’s Trust programmes have moved into work, education or training.

The 14 companies will now work together with government to finalise their plans and start delivering these opportunities which are vital to supporting young people into sustained employment.

A spokesperson from youth charity The Prince’s Trust said: “Too many young people are facing long term unemployment, believing their destiny lies in the dole queue. Prince’s Trust programmes are proven to help unemployed young people into jobs. Now, this backing from some of Britain’s biggest businesses will support thousands more disadvantaged young people into work.”

Chris Jones, CEO and Director-General, City & Guilds, responds: “With today’s announcements, it’s great to see Government putting apprenticeships into the hands of employers – building that link between education and employment is critical to sustainable economic growth. City & Guilds believes deeply in employer engagement in education, however it is concerning to see the lack of reference to Colleges, Training Providers and Awarding Organisations in the Implementation Plan. As we’ve found through our research into vocational pedagogy, educators play a critical role in helping individuals develop both technical and transferable skills.

“We can’t let the balance tip too far in the other direction. Educators working hand-in-hand with employers to develop the new apprenticeship frameworks will be critical to their success.  Educators must be involved in the Trailblazer pilots as well as employers; we urge Government to consider this as a requirement for the pilots, instead of as an optional extra, as this will create truly rigorous and responsive apprenticeships.

“We welcome that Government has selected industries for the ‘trailblazers’ which currently have lower take-up of apprenticeships as it will enable innovation without destabilising the whole system.

“It is also encouraging to see mention of learning technology as a key enabler to apprenticeships and we hope to see this theme expanded as the Trailblazers develop. Using technology in the right way will be transformative to the quality and accessibility of apprenticeships.

“Although we welcome the idea of simplicity, the question that remains is how one-page of paper will be translated into something that can actually be taught and assessed in a consistent and meaningful way by the hundreds of thousands of organisations involved in the system. As experts in assessment, quality assurance and learning technology, City & Guilds is looking forward to working with Government and the Trailblazer pilot groups, which include many of our employer customers, to ensure these reforms are successful in driving economic growth in an efficient and sustainable way.”