German Firms Slam UK Apprentices

Greg Walton in the Daily Mail 15 August 2012 reports on a recent survey revealing that German firms are shocked by the low quality of apprenticeships in the UK.

Germans Slam UK Apprenticeships
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Universal Apprenticeship for the UK

Vocational Education Training (VET) – to be known as the Universal Apprenticeship – could offer a (debt-free) pathway from “shop to top” as an alternative to a university based education.

To make this a reality, certain changes have to be made to the present system regarding the content of the learning offering. In addition, it needs simplifying and a higher degree of standardisation to achieve the necessary scale, which in turn will make it more cost-effective.

These changes are of course primarily designed to make apprenticeships more desirable to youngsters as well as employers. A lot of what is on offer at present should stay in place and form the basis of an upgraded, attractive first step on the ladder of a career for young people.

Eventually the Universal Apprenticeship should replace all of NVQ1-4, Modern and Advanced Apprenticeships. It would need high level political and business support, together with a PR makeover.

Vocation

Vocational should therefore mean that young persons’ differing talents – academic, artistic or practical – are recognised as equally useful in a “Big and Inclusive Society”. Accordingly, young people need to be offered corresponding pathways – firstly, from school into the world of work and after a successful completion of the first step – the Universal Apprenticeship, further career progression opportunities to fulfil their aspirations may they be in trades, crafts, technical, administrative or other occupations.

Education

Education should mean that school leavers aged 16 to 19, by choosing the Universal Apprenticeship are not just taught the ins and outs of a specific job in a narrow manner, but that they continue their education in general terms, too.

Enhancing their social and communication skills would be some of the aims of this part of their further education. This will lay the necessary foundation to enable the person to move off “the shop floor” and reach “the top floor” of his chosen profession, whatever it may be. This part must be the responsibility of vocational colleges, as it needs real teaching abilities. Of the total college based part of the apprenticeship, it should be around one third of the learning program, whilst the other two thirds are the theoretical part backing up the in-house company job specific training.

Training

The largest part of the Universal Apprenticeship, namely Training, ought to be based on standardised frameworks of in-company/organisation learning.

This would typically be over a period of around 2-3 years, for which the apprentice and employer enter into a training contract. Ideally the frameworks should give the apprentice as holistic an insight into their work environment as possible.

This gives the trainee/employees more self-esteem, empowers them to work more autonomous with less supervision and ultimately is more flexible, cost-efficient and productive.

The apprenticeship training contract should be largely standardised and safeguarded by law. To complete an apprenticeship successfully there should be a recognised and meaningful certification process, to ensure successful apprentices achieve good standing in society as young professionals.

In short, a successfully completed apprenticeship should not be the end but the beginning of a career for those with aspirations.

Apprentices in the UK: A Proposal

German Industry UK (GIUK) has been in discussion with John Hayes MP, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning.  Conversations regarding the development of German models of vocational training to benefit the UK economy have led GIUK to develop a proposal for progressing UK Apprenticeship schemes to become more successful.

Britain has been pretty good in training its elites but has neglected the training of “foot soldiers” for decades. If one wants to turn innovations into successful products, one needs both, and if David Cameron’s “Big Society” is to have any meaning in further education then his government has to look at apprenticeships in a new structured manner.

John Hayes himself recently made an announcement regarding the government’s commitment to progressing Apprenticeship schemes in the UK, saying  “We must create a radically new model for workplace training, with apprenticeships at its heart”.

In view of John Hayes’ statement, during a meeting between GIUK and Mr Hayes on 3 February 2010, about his interest in bringing key elements of the German Dual Vocational Training System to Britain, GERMAN INDUSTRY UK has developed the following proposal.

UK Apprentice Training

GIUK is of the opinion that the present UK apprentice training system requires simplifying, restructuring and more relevant content, for companies to buy into it.

Since successive governments largely abandoned apprenticeships, a vacuum was created, which has been filled with a myriad of well-meaning but chaotic initiatives, duplicating many efforts and lacking structure and transparency.

From comparisons with continental systems we are also sure that it is possible to reduce cost drastically whilst increasing transparency and efficacy.

The Example from Germany

The German government spends around Euro 1,9 bn per annum on its Vocational Training Colleges and the certification of apprentices through local chambers of industry and commerce. German industry spends around Euro 18.5 bn p.a. net on training apprentices. Around 650,000 youngsters (or 58% of school leavers) enter into apprenticeships every year.

The completion rate is always well over 90%. In total, there are approximately 1.6 million youngsters training as apprentices in Germany, at any one time, at a cost to the state of about Euro 1,200 ( GBP 1,000) per person p.a. and about Euro 12,000 ( GBP 10,000) per person p.a. for the employers.

Proposal

Setting up of a small working group to:

  1. Pick out of the 343 apprenticeships offered for instance in Germany the ca 200 most relevant to the UK
  2. Determine the minimum training content of each of those in the work place
  3. Determine the minimum training content of each in Vocational Training Colleges
  4. Determine the length of the apprenticeship according to grade of difficulty (2-4 years)
  5. Determine the Examining and Certification bodies for apprentices
  6. Transfer Vocational College training content to Further Education Colleges or set up new ones
  7. Propose sources of funding of colleges for apprentices’ training
  8. Propose pathways for steps from skilled person – after a period of practical work – to Master Craftsman, Technician, Bachelor of Administration, access to University etc for those with aspirations

Budget

A budget needs to be agreed by the Minister for Skills.

The Way Forward

Once the basis of the above has been agreed with the government and work commences, GERMAN INDUSTRY UK will actively support the new apprenticeships and will encourage its members to take on as many young people as possible as apprentices.

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GERMAN INDUSTRY UK  – THE VOICE OF GERMAN INDUSTRY IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
Ymwlch Isaf, Criccieth, Gwynedd LL52 0PW · Telephone: 01766 523 113
Email: info@gi-uk.co.uk · Website: www.gi-uk.co.uk