Apprenticeships should be equal to degrees, says ex-Dragon Doug Richard

Apprenticeships should be just as valuable a qualification as university degrees, entrepreneur Doug Richard has concluded in a government commissioned report.

The School for Startups founder lamented that apprenticeships had too often been seen as “second class”, calling for radical overhaul so that they could be seen as a viable alternative for young people to Oxbridge.

His key recommendations are:

  • Apprenticeships should be targeted only at those who are new to a job or role that requires sustained and substantial training.
  • Focusing with greater rigour on the outcome of an apprenticeship - what the apprentice can do when they complete their training - and freeing up the process by which they get there. Trusted, independent assessment is key.
  • Recognised industry standards should form the basis of every apprenticeship.
  • Employers and other organisations with relevant industry expertise should be invited to design and develop new apprenticeship qualifications for their sectors.
  • All apprentices should reach a good level in English and maths before they can complete their apprenticeship.
  • Government funding must create the right incentives for apprenticeship training. The purchasing power for investing in apprenticeship training should lie with the employer.
  • Far greater diversity and innovation in training should be encouraged - with employers and government taking a more active role in safeguarding quality.

“No matter who I speak with, everyone agrees that apprenticeships are a good thing - but only when they are ‘true’ apprenticeships.

“With the myriad of learning experiences which are currently labelled as apprenticeships, we risk losing sight of the core features of what makes apprenticeships work so my conclusion is that we need to look again at what it means to be an apprentice and what it means to offer an apprenticeship as an employer,” Richard said.

Business secretary Vince Cable added:

“I welcome Doug Richard’s review which echoes the government’s current thinking on putting employers in the driving seat of our apprenticeship programme. This will be vital to ensure the skills of our workforce fit with employer needs.

“His recommendations will help us to build on the current successes of our apprenticeships programme and tailor a programme which is sustainable, high-quality and meets the changing needs of our economy in the decades to come.”

CBI employment and skills policy director Neil Carberry welcomed the report and supported its message that apprenticeships should be a route into work.

“To make sure that all firms can access the training they need, it’s rightly recognised that we need a simple, accessible funding system, and businesses will welcome the idea of a skills tax credit,” he added.

The government will publish a full reponse to the review in the New Year.


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