27/11/2012 05:24 GMT

Dragons' Den star Doug Richard Tells Govt Apprenticeship Reform Is Needed

Entrepreneur and Dragons' Den star Doug Richard has urged the government to improve the standards for apprenticeships to help deliver skills and qualifications of "tangible value" to workers and employers.

In a report written by Richard, he recommended the introduction of a new work-based programme to support entry into employment, to replace Level 2 apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships should also be redefined, with one qualification for each occupation, and everyone on a programme should reach a good level in English and Maths.

"With myriad learning experiences which are currently labelled as apprenticeships, we risk losing sight of the core features of what makes apprenticeships work," he said.

"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. Apprenticeships need to be high quality training with serious kudos and tangible value both to the apprentice and the employer."

Richard also called for attractive tax credits or other financial incentives to help employers pay for the apprenticeships. This, he says, will create a closer relationship between employers and training providers, as employers will be able to pay providers directly for apprenticeship training.

Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills policy, welcomed the report and agreed with its sentiment that apprenticeships should carve a route into a career.

He also welcomed the notion that employers should have a greater say in apprenticeship design and be put "in the driving seat" to help ensure the training is better aligned to the needs of industry and future job creation.

“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.

John Walker, national chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses, was also positive.

“We warmly welcome the Richard Review and the direction of the recommendations. "It is now key that the findings of this review, the Holt review and the BIS select committee are considered as a whole by government and for a single combined response published that considers the whole landscape," he said.

"Ad hoc changes cannot continue to be made. Future changes must be strategic and create a system for the long-term."

The report's also been welcomed by education secretary Michael Gove, who said it was vital for qualifications and assessments involved in apprenticeships to be rigorous, trusted, and give employers confidence in the ability of their apprentices.

Ministers are expected to respond formally to the Richard Review paper in the new year.