EEF warns of funds gap for apprentices

The newly launched National Modern Apprentice Taskforce must address the
funding shortfall companies face if they take on older apprentices, according
to the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF).

Ian Peters, EEF director of external affairs, said it is vital that funding
for Modern Apprentices aged 19 and above is improved if the taskforce is
serious about helping to address skills shortages.

At present, employers receive £14,560 in funding for 16-18-year olds to
cover part of the £50,000 cost of taking on modern apprentices, but only about
half this figure for 16-18-year-olds. There is no funding assistance at all for
over 24s.

Peters said that this lack of funding curtails the number of over 19-year-olds
who can be supported on Modern Apprenticeships and is a barrier to improving
workplace skills.

He believes the Government’s target of getting 28 per cent of young people
in an apprenticeship by the age of 22 by 2004 is unattainable, unless funding
arrangements change.

"If the taskforce does only one thing, it should be to persuade the
Government to put funding for Modern Apprenticeships over the age of 19 on an
equal footing with those aged between 16 and 18." he said.

"The total number of starters in training on Modern Apprentices
programmes is steadily declining at a time when we need to grow the apprentice
population from 6,500 starters in England Scotland and Wales to 10,000 by
2005," said Peters.

The National Modern Apprenticeship Taskforce, which was launched last month
to promote the industry’s uptake of apprentices, will be led by Sir Roy
Gardner, chief executive of Centrica and includes individuals from across
industry and the education and training sector.

By Ben Willmott

Case study
EDS offers fast track to degrees via NVQs

Modern apprentices who join technology giant Electronic Data Services (EDS)
will be able to continue studying gain university degrees.

The Degrees for Modern Apprentices initiative is unique within the industry
and will enable Modern Apprentices to gain a BSc Honours degree in information
systems over a period of two-and-a-half to three years, once they have
completed their National Vocational Qualifications.

The learning is being provided in partnership with Thames Valley University
and will be tutor-directed using workbooks, electronic support and online
work-groups, all supplemented by existing EDS University materials. Students
will also take part in monthly face-to-face meetings with tutors and other EDS

The degree is modular and the firm, which employs 20,000 people in the UK,
is launching a pilot involving 20 students later this month.

Since autumn 1997, the EDS Modern Apprentice programme has recruited young
people, typically aged 16-21 years, into EDS UK. Candidates need five GCSEs or
equivalent and are interviewed and required to pass an aptitude test before
they embark on the programme.

Bill Thomas, EDS president, UK, Ireland, Middle East and Africa, said:
"We are thrilled to be able to offer our modern apprentices this valuable

"Not only will this enable access to higher education at no financial
cost for the students, but it will also help drive down skills shortages within
the IT industry and position EDS as the ’employer of choice’ with the best
people in the industry."


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