A warning from MPs that the Government’s apprenticeships programme must raise skill levels is timely, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has said in response to a new Public Accounts Committee report.
Sarah McMonagle, Director of External Affairs at the FMB, said: “The Government is at a crossroads in its apprenticeship programme and Ministers must now choose to either honour their pledge to increase the quality of apprenticeship training, or allow themselves to be consumed by the need to hit targets. The Public Accounts Committee emphasises strongly the need for the Government to be unrelenting in its focus on quality apprenticeships and this is absolutely key. While the temptation may exist to water down apprenticeship standards in order to hit the three million target, this would smack of short termism and ultimately be counterproductive. Unless we act now to increase quality, people will continue to look down their noses at vocational training when it should be viewed with the same respect as other forms of further education such as university degrees. This is the only way to increase numbers and reach our apprenticeship targets we need in the longer term.”
McMonagle concluded: “In construction, it’s particularly important that the Government holds firm in the face of pressure from some larger contractors and house builders to introduce shorter and cheaper apprenticeship standards. The new Trailblazer apprenticeships were conceived as a way of empowering employers by allowing them to develop qualifications that genuinely fulfil their needs. Given that construction SMEs account for 85% of employment in our sector, and train two thirds of all apprentices, their input and concerns should be central to the Government’s skills policy. We urge Ministers to take on board the Committee’s recommendations – it is not just the construction industry’s future that we need to consider but the career prospects of the individuals who are undertaking this training. Let’s give them the broad range of skills they need to flourish in their careers and protect them from unemployment if and when the next downturn bites.”