The Financial Skills Partnership has backed calls from MPs to bring about much needed reform of apprenticeships in the UK.

A report into apprenticeships from the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee concluded that apprenticeships should take a more prominent role in the learning landscape in the UK. It calls for apprenticeships to be seen as equal to study at university as the country looks to grow its economy through a wider range of industry related skills.

Liz Field, CEO of the Financial Skills Partnership, said, “The focus for apprenticeships shouldn’t just be placed on how many we can implement without looking at the effect the apprenticeships are having on businesses. Apprenticeships are no longer stopgaps for those not sufficiently academically gifted, or privileged, to get into higher education. They are now available in many more formats that cater to a greater number of job roles in industry sectors. Getting apprentices job ready and tooled up with relevant skills that will boost their respective workforces should be the priority. They shouldn’t just be there to make up the numbers.

“The brightest and most ambitious are now considering quality vocational training as an excellent alternative point of entry to a rewarding career. Their appetite should be matched by an established infrastructure whereby they can gain access to their chosen professions through apprenticeships that reflect the needs of the industry.”

The Financial Skills Partnership, whose role is to support employers in the sector in meeting their skills needs, has helped develop six apprenticeship frameworks currently being used, with over 7,000 apprenticeships starting in 2011/2012 across the sector, spanning all disciplines from accounting, payroll, book-keeping and professional services to providing financial services, financial advice and mortgage advice.

Last year, FSP also received an award from the Higher Apprenticeship Fund to help develop employer-led higher apprenticeship frameworks in partnership with large employers. It has helped develop a number of major programmes which have already commenced offering a variety of apprenticeships up to Level 4, and one to Level 7, on par with academic study.

Liz concluded, “We welcome the BIS report because it echoes our own lobbying voice that has called for a closer and more productive relationship between schools and the National Apprenticeship Service, and ultimately the businesses themselves.

Apprenticeships must shift from being a fringe subject on the careers advice curriculum and given adequate weighting in terms of how the benefits of vocational learning are taught. A school’s success should be judged on its ability to reflect the changes that are happening outside of the school walls and help provide the next generation of workers with what they need to hit the ground running in the real word of business.”