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Government's £1 billion strategy to boost apprentice numbers

It is National Apprentices week from February 25-29 and the bad news is apprenticeships are offered by just 10% of UK employers, however the government's £1 billion plan is aimed at changing this.
The government wants all young people in education or training by 2015 but does not believe it can acheive this without a more robust national apprenticeship system.

In its strategy 'World Class Apprenticeships: Unlocking Talent, Building Skills for All', the government highlights its plan to boost the number of places employers offer by encouraging them to raise their investment in apprentices.

From 2013, the government wants all suitably qualified young people entitled to an apprenticeship place. Around 130,000 businesses offer apprenticeships across the UK and among 16-18 year olds, just 1 in 15 are on an apprenticeship scheme. New targets have been set to increase this figure to one in five over the next 10 years.

To achieve this, funding for apprenticeships will rise by almost a quarter between 2007/8 and 2010/11 to more than £1 billion.

A National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) is a major part of the government's strategy and is scheduled to be fully functional by April 2009.

The NAS will operate on a regional as well as national level to
1) achieve government apprenticeship targets

2) educate learners and employers about their entitlement to apprenticeships funding

3) manage a taskforce to overcome obstacles to implementing the programme nationwide

4) co-ordinate funding of all apprenticeship places

5) assess potential providers for quality and value for money

6) establish and maintain a nationwide matching service for employers and prospective apprentices

7) develop an apprenticeships handbook detailing the system works

The government says it will make it easier for firms to have their in-house training programmes accredited to give employees nationally-recognised qualifications and add prestige to the firm.

Through Train to Gain, an extra financial contribution is available for firms with fewer than 50 employees to help meet the costs of releasing their staff to undertake agreed training. For firms with between 10-250 employees, financial support is also available to develop the skills of leaders.

All future vocational qualifications will be based on updated UK occupational standards that will be approved by Sector Skills Councils, who will monitor standards.

Government consultation has also revealed that employers want apprentices of all ages in the workforce and so the 25 year old age cap for apprenticeship funding is being abolished

For more details about the support available through the apprenticeship programme visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
15 February 2008

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