Fears over provision of apprentice placements as adult skills training budgets face major cuts

Editor’s Blog Posted 17/02/14
Despite record numbers enrolling to National Apprenticeship Service placements, budgets are facing big cuts from 2016.

Speaking to a wide range of businesses over the past few years, there’s no doubt in my mind that apprenticeships can make a huge difference both to those who embark on them and their employers.

While the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) has done some excellent work as it approaches its seventh year of annual campaigns to drive the agenda on youth employment – there are some especially troubling signs ahead.

This was underlined with last week’s government announcement that following a minor increase next year it was cutting a huge 20% chunk from its adult skills learning budgets (£463 million) in 2016.

Unsurprisingly, this has been greeted with considerable alarm by senior figures in the education sector – who have warned that college courses and skills training jobs will have to be slashed in some areas in order to meet the new funding landscape.

This comes despite the government claiming that apprenticeships remain a key priority in rebuilding the UK’s economy.

To its credit, the apprenticeship service has done its bit in assisting a record number of young people enter training courses, with around 700,000 per year now enrolling across a number of sectors.

With national apprenticeship week on the horizon for early March, it seems there’s a genuine appetite from young people to engage with such schemes as a viable alternative to more academic routes via university.

But some industry observers have warned that take-up of apprenticeships could be hit by as much as 80% due to planned changes in the way that apprenticeships are due to be administered – with individual firms (rather than dedicated training organisations) set to receive the funding directly for taking on an apprenticeships, which it is believed could impact significantly on the numbers of apprentices being taken on within the region.

While the South East has weathered the economic storms of the last five years better than some regions, there are areas within the region that come close to the top end of the national average of 20% of young people aged 19-24 described as

NEETS (Not in education or training) which is a statistic which will have to change drastically if we are to truly pull free of recession.

Given this fact, it seems patently obvious that reducing adult skills budgets is just one area of the economy that we can ill afford to leave lacking in funding.

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