Forget 'workfare', real apprenticeships are the way forward for our young people and our economy

In June entrepreneur and Dragon's Den investor was selected by the Government to lead a review into the future of apprenticeships. Here's what he found...


It’s simple: everyone likes apprentices. No matter who I speak with, when I mention apprenticeships, people react warmly and this crosses ages and party lines, regions of the country and backgrounds, ethnicity and gender. Apprenticeships, or at least the notion of them, are popular.

So why is it that the prestige and value many people associate with apprenticeships is so much lower than the esteem reserved for a University education, and other academic qualifications?

My study, The Richard Review, examined this conundrum, and found that a diversity of views exists in England on what an apprenticeship is and, more importantly, what it should be going forward. This plethora of perception is the first stumbling block because it has distorted the very definition of apprenticeships, causing us to lose sight of the core features of what makes apprenticeships valuable and unique.

There is no doubt that apprenticeships matter. Many jobs are best prepared for whilst on the job, and no single means of learning will suit everyone. Many of today’s leading companies in the UK include apprentices, who are valued for their raw talent and aptitude rather than the grades they achieved at school. These forward-thinking companies should be praised for recognising the value to be gained from these apprenticed employees, who are often more loyal and effective than other employees.

Our European neighbours have been much better at shaping apprenticeship programmes and harnessing the value of apprentices, and there are certainly lessons we can learn from countries such as Germany, where youth unemployment level is a meagre eight per cent — compared with 25.9 per cent in London — and this shows what can be achieved if, for example, we broaden the base of companies hiring apprentices.

Society benefits as well because apprenticeships provide a ladder for many people into employment, and providing routes into work is particularly important in these challenging economic times.

Improving the quality of the workforce also gives us a competitive advantage over other economies and effectively prepares many young people for a lifetime of employment by ensuring they have the transferable skills required to be successful in a dynamic and changing economy. This is in addition to the industry-specific knowledge and skills people need to be confident and competent in their current job, their industry sector, and beyond too.

So what needs to change? I believe that apprenticeships require a new job role, a role that is new to the individual and requires them to learn a substantial amount before they can do that job effectively. And an apprenticeship model must involve sustained and substantial training, fully and closely integrated within the experience of learning and practicing a real job, in order to deliver the most value.

In answering the question of what an apprenticeship should be in the future, and how apprenticeships can meet the needs of our changing economy in England, my Review proposes a new strategy for how a robust apprenticeship system should work. This is expressed through ten key recommendations, which should be viewed as a whole because they are all interlinked.

Ultimately, we need an apprenticeship system that meets the needs, and maximises the potential opportunities of this country’s economy, our learners, our approach to government and regulation, our future. Whilst the recommendations are tough and ambitious, they are entirely achievable if we have the will to engage.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam