The Government has been a big supporter of apprenticeships over the past few years, which is great for young people, business and the economy.
George Osborne announced £170 million of extra funding for apprenticeships last month as part of the Budget, and it's not hard to see why. Apprentices help fill the needs of business and, in return, receive the real-world and workplace experience that employers want. In fact, City & Guilds Group research shows that 77 per cent of employers think that young people with work experience are more employable.
The extra funding is very welcome, but unfortunately it comes with changes to the system that are not welcome.
The Government wants to put employers in the driving seat and give them more influence in developing the training that their apprentices receive. This is a sentiment we fully support. However, one of their mechanisms for achieving this is having businesses front the initial costs, and then claim it back through taxes.
It may not sound like a big deal, but many businesses don't have the time or resources to handle extra admin work. My fear is that many may decide that apprenticeships aren't worth the hassle.
In fact, the Electrical Contractors Association surveyed their members and found that 94 per cent would either decrease the number of apprentices they had or stop taking them on all together due to the change. It's hard to argue with that stat.
We already face looming skills gaps in this country, and can't afford to discourage employers from taking on apprentices.
The idea behind the proposal is right: to improve the quality and relevance of training. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills told the Telegraph that it will '...make the new system as simple and user-friendly as possible for all employers.'
That seems logical, however they are trying to fix a system that isn't perfect, but isn't broken. Ironically, it could break the system in the process. Instead of forcing everyone to adopt one funding model, why not give employers the option? That way, they could choose which path is best to meet their business needs.
If the Government wants employers to take on more apprentices, they should make it easier not more difficult. There are 881,000 young people out of work in the UK, and employers should be given every incentive to employ them.
Our apprenticeship system is already changing the lives of thousands for the better, but continually altering it could have tremendously damaging consequences.