The Price of Inadequate Apprenticeships

Publicly run schools are routinely placed into “special measures” when they are judged inadequate by Ofsted: but does the same apply to private companies offering Government-funded apprenticeships?

If schools can be forced into becoming privately owned academies when they fail Ofsted tests, shouldn’t private corporations be taken into public ownership when making an inadequate contribution to society? It seems not!

Instead corporations, like clothing giant Next, appear to face no serious consequences for swindling the public.

I say this because Ofted recently reported that the “Teaching, learning and assessment” provided by Next apprenticeships was inadequate across the board (December 8, Leicester Mercury).

Rather than train their apprentices, Next prefers to exploit them as cheap labour to boost their profits, effectively allowing them to slash £2.5 million from their staffing costs over the past year. On top of this, last year, Next received just under £1.8 million of Government funding to assit them in providing 786 apprentices with inadequate training.

Apprenticeships are of course meant to last for at least one year and provide substantive training. However, as the recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme — which criticized Next’s apprenticeship scheme- correctly pointed out, Government sponsored placements on offer often include work paying as little as £3.30 an hour that hardly requires such training, offering  apprenticeships for “dry cleaning operators”, “fish friers” and even bar workers.

Unforunately all too often decent paying jobs are not even a guartantee of a year long  apprenticeship. For example at Next, Ofsted commented that only a “small minority secure full-time employment”, with most apprentices simply being offered Next’s typical fare of part-time work — which does little to enable their workers to pay their bills withouth Government assistance in the form of working tax credits.

Nevertheless the Government continues to gush about creating 3 million apprenticeships, caring little about the quality of the training provided to their underpaid workforce.

The stark hypocrisy of the Government’s policy is most evidently highlighted by the fact that in areas where workers are desparately needed, like in the construction industry, there has, over the past five years, been a 32% decrease in apprenticeships.

This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury on December 8.

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