Conservative plans to increase apprenticeships to 3 million by 2020 'will fail', colleges and businesses tell survey

Many respondents 'would rather employ migrant workers than take on an apprentice'

Government plans to increase apprentice numbers to three million by 2020 will fail, according to training providers and businesses with training academies in England.

With the release of GCSE results this week, the Institute of the Motoring Industry (IMI) conducted a survey which revealed how colleges and businesses believe they will struggle to recruit the numbers and quality of apprentices required to sustain economic growth over the next five years.

Contributing factors, they said, were: education cuts, poor careers advice, and schools keeping pupils on to maintain funding.

Eighty four per cent said most applicants do not have the required academic grades, with most businesses reporting the employability of prospective trainees sent to them by schools was ‘poor’.

The IMI said it found many respondents would rather employ migrant workers than take on an apprentice.

Despite respondents welcoming the Government’s ambition to increase apprenticeships to three million, they expressed fears of how other policies would make this impossible to achieve.

Overall, the results showed all respondents agreed the current situation looks set to get ‘much worse’ now the education participation age has been raised to 18 in England.

The IMI said it represents the £152bn a year retail motor industry, which needs 12,000 apprentices annually in order to operate. Its CEO, Steve Nash, highlighted how providers in the motor industry are voicing fears they will lose out in the race for the best learners because of education cuts.

He said: “Schools will seek to keep as many ‘paying’ students in sixth-form as possible. They need only to ration information about alternatives and the already small talent pool available to fill apprenticeship vacancies will be drained.”

Reflecting on the Government’s pledge to increase apprentice numbers, he added: “With skills shortages starting to appear in every sector of the economy, this looks like a conservative ambition.

“The leaving age problem raises serious questions over its ability to hit even this target without investing in a serious careers advice programme, which it is currently refusing to do.”

The Government, however, has set out to reassure employers they will have a greater say in designing high-quality apprenticeships that meet the needs of industry.

The Conservatives have also added they will meet their target to end youth unemployment come 2020 by reducing the benefits cap and restricting housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds “so the welfare system doesn’t trap young people in a culture of dependency.”

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