CBI apprenticeship proposals may damage young jobless prospects

Calls for the government to create incentives for employers to take on more apprentices than they need will not necessarily create more permanent jobs for the young unemployed, experts have warned.

As part of its five-point plan to tackle youth unemployment, the CBI has urged the government to use £25m – from the £500m made available to help the long-term unemployed – to encourage employers to take on more apprentices than they require.

But HR professionals and think tanks warned that if employers hire more apprentices than they need there will not be jobs for all participants once training ends.

Becci Newton, senior research fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “It’s definitely good to get the training but people will want to have a job at the end of it and that’s the bit that would probably disappear – the guarantee of continuity – if the employer has over-recruited. It weakens the chances of getting a job.”

Paul Speer, head of BT’s apprenticeship academy, warned that a saturation point could be reached with there being more trained apprentices than jobs available.

“There’s a real risk that there won’t be employment for them at the end,” he said. “[Incentives] need to be in balance with the job opportunities available for them, otherwise we could end up with a huge workforce of people that can do very clever work but if there is no demand people will still be in unemployment queues.”

The government is currently running an £11m pilot apprenticeship expansion scheme to encourage employers to take on extra apprentices, but the CBI wants this to be extended.

Fiona Murray, senior policy advisor at the CBI, told Personnel Today: “[This scheme] would be a really useful way for large employers to offer support to the rest of their sector by opening up their training facilities to train more apprentices so other companies can benefit later on with access to more experienced workers.”

Meanwhile Des Thurlby, HR director of Jaguar Land Rover, which is currently involved in the pilot scheme, said it had to become much less complex and bureaucratic if the government wanted to increase uptake.

The car manufacturer will save about £100,000 a year after taking on an extra 15 apprentices – taking the apprenticeship scheme to 44 people.

He said: “We found the bureaucracy we had to go through extremely frustrating and time-consuming.

“It should be expanded but the government needs to streamline the scheme and make it easier for employers to access the money. If we were a small company we would have given up as it was like pulling teeth.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the government would make a decision on funding for the apprenticeship expansion scheme after the pilot had been completed, in the next financial year.

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