06/11/2012 04:38 GMT | Updated 06/11/2012 05:26 GMT

Lord Adonis: There Should Be As Many Apprenticeships As There Are University Places

There should be as many apprenticeships on offer to school leavers as there are university places, a former Labour schools minister has said.

Lord Adonis called for a "revolution in apprenticeships" on Tuesday for those youngsters who do not want to go on to higher education.

"Our basic problem for the 50% that do not go to university is there's nothing like university that acts as a magnet for them in terms of aspiration to get on or getting out of bed in the morning," he told an ARK schools conference in central London.

"My own view is the only way we'll crack this is if we have a revolution in apprenticeships.

"We need as many apprenticeship places for 18-year-olds as there are university places."

These apprenticeships should be "marketed like UCAS markets university places," said Lord Adonis, who served as schools minister under the last Labour government.

"I think we can crack this problem of this very, very long tail of lack of competitiveness, lack of achievement, lack of motivation."

Lord Adonis also condemned the lack of apprenticeships within government.

"The state should never preach about what it is not prepared to practise itself."

"The very worst institution for providing apprenticeships is government itself, he said.

Half of Whitehall departments do not have a single apprentice, he claimed,

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills which is responsible for "preaching apprenticeships to the private sector" has 3,500 civil servants and 13 apprentices, with just one aged under 21, Lord Adonis claimed.

He added that the Department for Education has even less.

"It is not a satisfactory state of affairs."

A BIS spokeswoman said: "Provisional figures show apprenticeship starts topped the half a million mark this year, with particularly strong growth at advanced and higher levels. This achievement shows our commitment to creating a flexible highly skilled workforce and is a ringing endorsement from employers and apprentices alike, who are reaping the benefits of a more highly-skilled workforce.

"We are committed to supporting those figures within the Department and its agencies and we took on 62 new apprentices in 11-12."

Neil Carberry, director for employment and skills at CBI, an organisation representing 240,000 businesses, said more red tape would be detrimental to the cause.

"The committee is right to say the government should prioritise apprenticeships, and make them about delivering high-quality training, not just about high numbers.

"But the way to achieve these aims is not to heap further red tape onto businesses, as the committee seems to suggest. Too many businesses are already turned-off by the scale of compliance required to get involved.

"Instead, we need a clear definition of the quality standard that apprenticeships should reach. And businesses need the government to trust them to deliver apprenticeships, by giving them more control over the funding and content of courses.

"Too much of the current system delivers what the Government will fund, rather than what businesses need."