Apprenticeships. They've started, but will they finish?

Despite attempts to stem the flow, apprenticeship drop-out rates are too high, says Hugh Thompson

Dawn McPeak, 19, and Stuart Woolly, 18, are exemplary. While Dawn has just completed her hairdressing apprenticeship, Stuart has done the same in carpentry. The Government's target is for 35 per cent of 16-year-olds to be in apprenticeships by 2010. The figure today is 24 per cent. Exemplary they may be, but they are also very much the exception. Dawn was one of only two out of 20 who finished her course based at the West London College; Stuart is only one of nine out of 25 who completed his.

Dawn blames a particularly bad course tutor for the large drop-out rate in her year. "She just didn't want to know," she says. "Every problem was an inconvenience. If she hadn't left I would have." Stuart, from Banstead, Surrey, feels that many students didn't realise the commitment you had to put in. "Those that got most involved are the ones that finished," he says.

And nationally the figures are only a little better. On average only 35 per cent finish their two-year apprenticeship courses. Six years ago, when the figure was only 27 per cent, a task force was set up to see whether it was the employers, the students or the training partner (many of whom are further education colleges) who were at fault. The target is for an above 50 per cent pass rate.

Some employers have found that the only way of guaranteeing a flow of qualified tradespeople is to set up their own schemes and run the training themselves. Since British Gas set up its own academy in 2002, it has achieved a 97 per cent success rate with its apprentices. Pat McMullan, national strategy manager of the British Gas Academy, says, "We can be very selective. For the 500 apprentices we take on each year we have 19,000 enquiries and interview 3,000. Research shows that where schemes fail is in making would-be apprentices aware of what is involved and how much commitment is needed. We put a lot into advice and guidance."

A few years ago BMW, worried by the poor standards of training it was getting from colleges, brought the training in-house and the apprentice training it does in the UK is now standard for the rest of Europe.

Stephani Bellini, senior policy manager for the Learning Skills Council (LSC), the body responsible for planning and funding vocational skills for young people, says: "The figures have got much better since we took over in 2002, the pass rate has overall gone from 24 to 35 per cent and that varies from subject to subject. While those doing IT apprenticeships have a 50 per cent pass rate, those doing health and social care apprenticeships only achieve 25 per cent. Many youngsters don't leave their training; they leave their job for an extra pound an hour. Many also leave after they have passed the NVQ part of the course - there is a 48 per cent success rate at this level because they feel they can get a job ."

Courses that are employer-driven have the highest success rate; those which are trainer-driven, where the trainer has to recruit an employer, have the worst success rate. Often employers in this situation just see the apprentices as a form of cheap labour and the training and mentoring element is minimised. Further education colleges are often the worst providers of apprentice training as they are the least involved with employers, whereas private providers, who have a commercial interest in their relationships, are better. Earlier this summer the LSC published a prospectus for change aimed at further education colleges. In particular the programme looked at ways of making further education colleges focus more on what businesses need. By cutting down the numbers of trainers, recruiting better employers and giving students a six-week grace period, the LSC remains confident that its targets can be reached.

Nicky Perry, director of inspection with the Adult Learning Inspectorate says: "Further education colleges have shown themselves to be inflexible in insisting on a September to July year. It is also true in certain industries, where youngsters are working with state of the art machinery and tools, that the further education colleges are hopelessly under-equipped. Generally the system has not faced up to the fact that in many jobs youngsters move around, and for the apprenticeships to be viable, the training must be able to move with them."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you a recent graduate loo...

Guru Careers: Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant

£16 - 20k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant is needed to ...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor