At a Business, Innovation and Skills select committee inquiry into apprenticeships, FPB senior policy advisor Alex Jackman told MPs that apprenticeships are facing an ‘identity crisis’ over how entrepreneurs view shorter courses.
‘Business owners in more traditional industries often doubt their value relative to the longer schemes they run, and even question whether they should be branded as apprenticeships at all,’ says Jackman.
‘At a general level we have spent decades devaluing GCSEs, A-levels and degrees by making them easier to pass. It is just not acceptable to devalue apprenticeships in the same way.’
According to the FPB, more awareness is needed of the differences between intense, four-year apprenticeships and shorter schemes, greater clarity about their applicability to businesses in different industries and more centralised information about where to source information, funding and courses.
In its submission to the official inquiry, the Forum argued that central government could be more effective in overcoming the lack of clarity over information about apprenticeships as a result of the numerous routes through which to seek advice.
The lobbying group believes that reinstating independent careers advice in schools and colleges would develop greater understanding of the value of apprenticeships within the education system.
In the interests of flexibility and meeting the specific needs of small businesses, the Forum also calls for more incentives to encourage firms to take on apprentices, including via tax breaks and building on the direct, employer-led funding initiative currently being piloted.
Forum research suggests 46 per cent of small businesses use day release and college training apprenticeships, 31 per cent traditional ‘on-the-job’ training schemes, and 26 per cent work trials taking on long-term unemployed people on 30-day trials.