England needs an apprenticeship revolution, with 150-300,000 extra three-year apprenticeship starts each year for young people, according to a major new analysis by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) for the Sutton Trust published today.
The radical blueprint, Real Apprenticeships, analyses the current situation in England and draws on experiences in Germany, Switzerland, Singapore, Australia and other international systems to set out a path that would transform skills and opportunities for young people in England, and benefit the economy by around £8bn a year.
At present, fewer than 200,000 of the 520,000 apprenticeships starting each year in England are at level 3 (A level standard) or higher, and only 61,000 new apprenticeship starts were created for young people. This compares to 570,000 apprenticeship starts in Germany for young people, 90 percent of which are at level 3 or above. Switzerland has 43 apprentices at level 3 for every 1000 staff, compared with 40 in Germany, 39 in Australia and 33 in Austria. The UK has just six per 1000.
England’s vocational system has 18,000 different qualifications compared with just 330 qualifications in Germany.
The recent expansion in ‘apprenticeships’ has been driven by low level qualifications, often targeted at older workers. Since 2010, 58% of ‘apprenticeships’ have been below level 3 and 75% have been for people aged 25 and older, many of them in work.
A recent National Apprenticeship Service report found 11 young people chasing every apprenticeship, with 33 applying for every plumbing apprenticeship.
BCG calculates that a move to three year apprenticeships on a German scale could boost the economy by £8 billion a year and reduce public spending by £2.5 billion, after the initial cost of apprentice wage subsidies.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “This ground-breaking analysis points the way forward for politicians and policymakers to make real apprenticeships the norm. Having excellent provision for those who do not go to university is as important for social mobility as good university degrees. Students find themselves between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand they must incur large debts to get a university education, and on the other the lack of good apprenticeships means they feel they have little choice but to go to university.
“England’s patchwork vocational system not only hinders our economic performance, it prevents hundreds of thousands of young people from gaining good job skills. Many countries value those who train in the workplace and study at the same time as highly, if not more highly, than those who attend university.
“We need a step change in the provision of real apprenticeships for all occupations from bankers to bakers and a revolution in how they are regarded in society.”
Ian Walsh, Partner and Managing Director of BCG in London said: “Apprenticeships and vocational education are crucial to the UK’s future prosperity. The UK has much to learn from other systems and the prize for doing so is considerable. Our proposals build on the lessons of other countries to produce a practical blueprint that could transform the life chances of our young people if we are willing to make the radical changes required.”
The report recommends:
NOTES TO EDITORS