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Apprenticeships Commission calls for vocational subjects and better careers advice

A cross-party Commission on Apprenticeships has recommended that all pupils should be offered a vocational subject at school to increase the number taking apprenticeships.

According to Construction News, the cross-party commission, co-chaired by Conservative MP for Harlow Robert Halfon and Labour peer Lord Glasman, found that schools continue to promote academic routes, such as university, more enthusiastically than technical and vocational learning.

The Commission on Apprenticeships was launched last summer to make recommendations on how to increase the number of high quality apprenticeships in the UK and ensure qualifications are fit for purpose.

Research for the commission by cross-party think tank Demos found that 75 per cent of parents think construction apprenticeships are a good option for young people.

According to the poll of 1,000 parents of 15 and 16-year-olds, 32 per cent thought an apprenticeship in construction was the “best choice” for their child, meanwhile 52 per cent thought university was a better route.

In 2013/14 there were 8,030 apprenticeship completions in the construction, planning and built environment sector down from 9,060 the previous year.

In January, the CITB’s lastest Construction Skills Network report revealed that the industry will need to recruit an average of 44,690 people each year between now and 2019 to meet forecast demand.

The commission’s final report, supported by the CITB, makes 15 recommendations to policymakers to increase the number of apprenticeships (full list below).

Among the recommendations are that all 14 to 16-year-olds should have the opportunity to take a vocational subject alongside their academic studies at school, and that there should be a high quality public sector careers service to offer face-to-face advice in schools.

It also recommends that employer bodies should coordinate efforts to promote greater understanding of their industry by building partnerships with schools.

To increase employer demand for apprentices, it recommends that the government should trial a “mutual guarantee” at the start of apprenticeships.

In this arrangement, the employer would commit to investment in off-the-job training, and the apprentice would commit to completing the apprenticeship or else covering the costs of the off-the-job training.

To guarantee high quality training for apprentices, it also recommends that the government should support an apprenticeship charter to serve as a quality awarded to employers who demonstrate commitment to apprentices and their progression.

CITB’s director of policy Steve Radley said: “There are a wide range of opportunities available to young people in the construction sector, from building homes and businesses, to maintaining historic properties, to working on major infrastructure projects like railways, stadiums and new energy hubs.

“But schools and parents need a better understanding of what apprenticeships offer.

“As well as leading to rewarding careers, construction apprenticeships can also be the pathway to a university degree but are too often seen as a second best alternative to it.”

Demos researcher Ian Wybron said: “All the major political parties agree we need to do more to promote high-quality apprenticeships.

“So it’s disheartening to see that so few parents and students are given the information they need to make an informed choice about them.

“Schools, businesses and policymakers should work together to promote apprenticeships as a first-rate option to be considered by all young people.”


For schools:

  1. Students aged 14 to 16 should be offered the chance to take a vocational subject alongside academic study.
  2. Pupil destination data should track pupils several years after they have left school and provide career destination data.
  3. Careers advice provision that is independent of the school, and a high quality public sector careers service.
  4. Employer bodies should coordinate efforts to promote greater understanding of their industry by building partnerships with schools.
  5. All boards of governors in secondary schools should include two influential local employers. One member of every school governing body should be appointed as a ‘careers lead’.

To increase employer demand:

  1. Every apprenticeship should have a section on potential progression routes after completion.
  2. Government should publish a definitive list of occupations which apprenticeships can lead to.
  3. The government, working with employers, occupational bodies and unions, should conduct a review and identify the occupations whose practitioners should require a licence to practise.
  4. On funding reform, the government should revert to the provider payment model or offer each business a choice as to whether they directly handle public money or not.
  5. Shared apprenticeship schemes should be established within sectors to increase the number of small businesses taking on apprentices and to reduce the number of apprenticeships that are started but not completed in SMEs.
  6. The government should trial a new ‘mutual guarantee’ arrangement at the start of an apprenticeship. Employers would clarify their level of investment in off-the-job training, while apprentices would commit to completing the apprenticeship, or cover the costs of off the job training.

For high quality training:

  1. The government should support an apprenticeship charter, to serve as a quality mark, awarded to employers who demonstrate commitment to high quality learning in apprenticeships and to future learning progression.
  2. The open data team in the Cabinet Office should lead a cross-departmental initiative to publish datasets for FE Choices, Learner View and Employer View.
  3. Government should adopt a data-sharing protocol to free detailed information on the apprenticeships being offered by employers in local areas.
  4. Government should work with occupational bodies and employer groups to explore the potential for a Teach Next scheme, which would encourage retiring workers to take on roles in training and assessment for apprenticeships.

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