2 The quality and range of apprenticeship
quality of apprenticeships for young people
17. In 2013/14, there were 134,500 under 19s participating
in intermediate (level 2) apprenticeships, and 58,100 in advanced
apprenticeships (level 3).
We received a range of views about the quality of level 2 schemes.
Professor Paul Croll suggested that for the "traditional
age range of 16 to19 [
] on the whole that traditional model
does offer pretty good quality".
Professor Alison Fuller disagreed:
About 70% of those youngsters who start an apprenticeship,
in that age band, go on to a Level 2 apprenticeships [
The minimum criteria for the Level 2 should be one year's duration
and allow you to attain some Level 2 awards. Is that really a
secure platform for progression for future earnings and secure
trajectories into higher paid and higher skilled jobs? I am not
sure that it is. In comparator countries that would not count
as an apprenticeship.
18. City and Guilds highlighted the varied quality
across different sectors:
These now range from genuinely skilled occupations
which demand two years of solid training and substantial part
time education (eg construction trades), through to lower skill
occupations which, if entered outside of apprenticeship would
involve short term on the job training lasting as little as three
months (eg some retail sales and/or customer service occupations).
19. David Sims, Research Director at the National
Foundation for Educational Research, and Professor Fuller both
agreed that some schemes under the apprenticeship brand should
not count as apprenticeships.
David Massey from UKCES said that the focus should be on outcomes:
If it is a Level 2 and is delivering good outcomes
in terms of earnings later on, and that is what employers say
they need, that could still be high quality. Ideally they would
move on to a Level 3, and that should still be the case.
20. The Aspire Group suggested that removing level
2 schemes "would have a catastrophic impact on social mobility,
as young people with modest to low academic achievement would
no longer be able to gain a vocational position and progress".
Similarly Tom Wilson, Director of UnionLearn, told the Association
of Employment and Learning Providers' conference in February 2015
that abolishing level 2 apprenticeships "would frankly be
a grave injustice to the thousands and thousands of apprentices
who've currently got level two".
He argued that level 3 apprenticeships should be the norm but
that the way to achieve that aim was "not just to abolish
at a stroke level two, it's to work with employers, work with
unions, work with the sector bodies and try and create that sense
21. Level 2 schemes are particularly popular in certain
specific sectors. SkillsActive, the Sector Skills Council for
active leisure and wellbeing, reported that more than 10% of all
level 2 apprenticeships were in hairdressing and barbering, where
level 2 schemes were the norm.
The range of apprenticeship frameworks
22. In August 2014 there were 328 different apprenticeship
frameworks across 170 different industries.
The Government is looking to encourage more businesses to develop
apprenticeships in a range of sectors, "including areas where
apprenticeships were not previously available".
Since 2011 the DfE's focus has been on encouraging growth in the
number of higher apprenticeships, at levels 4-7,
few of which are undertaken by younger apprentices.
23. Fair Train supported an increased range of apprenticeships,
noting that take-up had so far been less successful in the third
sector. The Aspire
Group and James Whelan
both suggested that some sectors had a greater range of apprenticeships
than others, with Mr Whelan highlighting the example of journalism,
where there was only a single framework.
24. In contrast, Eileen Cavalier, CEO of the London
College of Beauty Therapy, suggested that apprenticeships were
not suitable in every sector. She said that for beauty therapy
"it is virtually impossible to deliver the qualification
as an apprentice",
due to legislation preventing untrained therapists from performing
treatments on customers.
The image of apprenticeships
25. The challenge of driving up the number of young
apprentices may be made more difficult by public perception of
apprenticeships. The DfE told us:
We know that there are significant and on-going
misconceptions about apprenticeships amongst young people and
the people and organisations that influence them. These tend to
focus on an outdated view of apprenticeship as primarily focused
on manual and low level work. For instance, ICM depth tracking
research shows that:
of 14 to 16 year-olds think that apprenticeships are aimed at
those who don't do well at school, compared to 23% of 17 to 18
year-olds and 17% of 19 to 24 year-olds.
of 14 to 16 year-olds think that apprenticeships are only available
for manual workers, compared to 10% of 17 to 18 year-olds and
8% of 19 to 24 year-olds. 
26. Professor Paul Croll and Professor Gaynor Atwood
told us that those in the bottom quartile of academic achievement
do not tend to undertake apprenticeships, despite an expectation
among people in that group that they would do soin fact
apprentices tend to be from the third quartile of academic attainment.
27. The Association of School and College Leaders
was one of several organisations to suggest that apprenticeships
are viewed by some as a "second class option".
The contributions to our online forum, hosted on
www.thestudentroom.com,illustrate the negative perception
of apprenticeships. "Raineandfyre", a member of the
At one time, if you were an apprentice you were
probably being trained for a highly skilled, highly paid job in
heavy industry (eg. as an electrician in a coal mine). You were
promised a job for life which could more than support you and
your family, as the high risks of injury or death involved in
your working life were rewarded with an excellent fair wage and
pension. What can you get now? £2 odd an hour and a BTEC
at the end of it?
28. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
highlighted "this perception that university offers more
opportunities and choice which can heavily influence the decisions
of parents and children as to what route they should choose".
29. Negative perceptions of apprenticeships are also
a problem for employers. Dan Hooper from the Federation of Small
Businesses summarised employers' views:
We do not like to see apprenticeships linked
with youth unemployment, because from a small business perspective
our members tell us that makes them think it is a Government programme
and they are getting poor-quality students. To bleed the point
dry on quality, it would help if Government rhetoric changed.
Government has a powerful voice in talking about youth employment
opportunities rather than talking about supporting youth unemployment
initiatives. That would change business perception and would hopefully
feed down into schools
number of young people starting apprenticeships in recent years
has been a consistent but low proportion of the numbers of young
people involved in vocational education. We welcome the improvement
in the number of quality apprenticeships for young people lasting
at least 12 months but overall numbers have not increased.
31. 16-19 year
olds tend to undertake level 2 apprenticeships, which vary in
the degree of demand made of the apprentice.
32. The Government
is seeking to increase the number of apprenticeships by extending
the range of sectors in which apprenticeships that are available.
It is important to ensure that such growth does not sacrifice
quality, as apprenticeships should always require substantial
training and always deliver a substantial uplift in earning power
for the apprentice. Level 2 apprenticeships that comply with these
principles should be retained.
emphasis on apprenticeships as a means to combat youth unemployment
risks reinforcing the myth that apprenticeships are a second class
option and damages the apprenticeship brand.
34. The central
challenge for the Government is to incentivise an increase in
the number of young people undertaking apprenticeships at the
same time as improving the quality of provision and its impact
24 BIS, Breakdown by level and age: participation 2002/03 to 2013/14 Back
City & Guilds () para 6 Back
Q10 [David Sims]; [Professor Alison Fuller] Back
Ibid [David Massey] Back
Aspire Group (AAT0010) para 3.11 Back
"Unionlearn rejects Labour apprenticeship policy as AELP looks five years ahead",
FE Week, 20 February 2015 Back
SkillsActive () para 5 Back
DfE () para 2.2 Back
DfE () para 2.7 Back
Ibid., para 2.3 Back
BIS, Apprenticeships starts by geography, age and level, 2002/03-2013/14 Back
Fair Train () para 3.2 Back
The Aspire Group () para 5.1 Back
James Whelan () para 1 Back
DfE () para 7.2 Back
Professor Paul Croll and Professor Gaynor Attwood () para 4 Back
Association of School and College Leaders () para 12 Back
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development () para 22 Back
Q317 [Dan Hooper] Back