01/04/2014 10:47 BST | Updated 01/04/2014 10:59 BST

UK Needs Apprenticeships 'Revolution', Says Labour's Lord Adonis

Jonathan Brady/PA Archive
Lord Andrew Adonis, Honorary President of the Independent Academies Association, addresses the organisation's autumn conference at the Emirates Stadium, London.

Britain needs an apprenticeships "revolution", with a major increase in the quality and quantity available for young people, former Labour education minister Lord Adonis has said.

Speaking at a debate on skills at the British Chambers of Commerce's annual conference, Lord Adonis hit out at the "unacceptable" level of apprenticeships which are available for only up to 12 months.

"We clearly need a revolution in apprenticeships, particularly youth apprenticeships," he said. "What we need to do is a step change, not just an incremental increase in the number of apprenticeships as well as the quality of apprenticeships."

The Labour peer said the government needs to work "in partnership" with schools and business to improve issues like the quality of advice for young people at schools.

"The quality of advice for young people at schools isn't good enough," he continued. "Teachers are much less good at giving advice on vocational and apprenticeships.

"Schools need to have "senior" people who liaise with local employers and are responsible for helping young people get into apprenticeships.

"We need people in schools who understand local labour market sand employers and encouraging them to offer local apprenticeships and to give young people advice," he told business leaders.

Speaking alongside him, Dragons' Den star and Ryman stationers' boss Theo Paphitis said that there was a "disconnect" starting from school that means young people often lack the right workplace skills and confidence.

"I think its disappointing when you see young people haven't acquired the skills and the confidence and the understanding of things like that when you face someone you eyeball them."

Paphitis suggested that business can always do more to help young people, saying: "I don't think we can ever do enough".

"I'm looking for passion, drive, ambition and confidence, I can teach them everything else", he said.

Skills minister Matthew Hancock issued a personal "plea" for people to stop describing workplace skills as "soft skills".

He said: "Can we stop calling them soft skills? They're mission critical. They're about character and they're vital."

Meanwhile, Anglo-American chairman Sir John Parker said apprenticeships were an "excellent" way of meeting the skills shortage in the engineering sector.

He suggested that young people could build confidence and skills through "crucial" extra-curricular activites like sports.