Apprenticeships could hit government targets with public sector support

The government’s apprenticeship targets fall far short of what could be achieved if all public departments and agencies offered just 20 new schemes, a senior figure has insisted.

Speaking at the Public Sector Skills Conference in London on 1 December, Ian Watmore, the permanent secretary at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), said the original government target of creating 500 new apprenticeships this year could be smashed if all government employers offered just 20 apprenticeship schemes each over the next academic year.

“We now have 20 apprenticeships in DIUS: 10 were recruited through Jobcentre Plus, another 10 from our department. If you do that across all [government] employers, that means 12,500 apprenticeships will become available. The original target was 500,” he said.

Skills secretary John Denham said in October that more than 1,000 apprenticeships will begin in central government departments and agencies this academic year, doubling the original target announced in January 2008.

Ruth Spellman, the chief executive at the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), also at the event, said employers must not be tempted to cut back on improving skills in the workplace in the current economic climate. “Employers must prepare now for the upturn,” she said.

Watmore added that apprenticeships offered employers the chance to improve existing skills in the workforce, and helped to tailor the talent of new recruits. “We need to increase apprenticeships across the whole of the public sector,” he said.

Meanwhile the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is offering employers that already provide high-quality apprenticeships access to more than £10 million over the next three years, in a new scheme beginning next year.

The new funding will help the government achieve 400,000 apprenticeship schemes in England by 2020.

David Way, national director of apprenticeships at the LSC said: “Given the current economic slowdown it is important that companies continue training their staff to maintain productivity and a competitive edge.

“Employing apprentices is an ideal way for businesses to position themselves as leaders for the recovery. The new funding will make it easier for businesses to do this and provide the opportunity for industry sectors to successfully fill their existing skills gaps.”

Businesses keen to make use of the funding available should contact the LSC on 024 7682 3668, or by visiting the Learning and Skills Council website

The deadline for expressions of interest is 16 January 2009.

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