I support all the amendments in this group. However, I want to talk specifically about Amendments 1, 3, 6 and 13. Amendment 1 seeks to define an apprenticeship to ensure that employers are compliant with the terms of an agreement. This definition is essential to the success of apprenticeships, as it clearly states what is required of employers, thus ensuring that apprentices gain broad knowledge and interest in the specific industry.
The purposes of an apprenticeship are threefold. They are vital in making sure that apprentices develop the practical skills and qualifications that will enable them successfully to gain employment in their chosen industry. The contents of apprenticeships must be in synergy with the demands of employers in a specific industry. It is crucial that relations of mutual understanding and respect are fostered between employers and apprentices. This would promote the likely scenario that the employer would be willing to offer an apprentice a job in their company after the completion of an apprenticeship.
The proposed new paragraph (b) in Amendment 1 requires an employer to provide a varied apprenticeship programme that encompasses both on-the-job and off-the-job training. This amendment is of particular importance as it will give apprentices the opportunities to master their fields across a spectrum of practical and office-based learning. It is a common occurrence for some employers to state that many of the younger employees excel in the textbook application of their duties, but are lacking in the vocational sense. I congratulate my noble friend on this amendment as I feel it will be strongly supported by employers and apprentices alike.
The proposed new paragraph (c) in Amendment 1 seeks to provide apprentices with training that has the long-term goal of providing apprentices with an award of proficiency that is recognised in their field. This will work towards enabling apprentices successfully to gain employment in their chosen trade. The development of a qualification that is respected and recognised in the industry will give learners confidence in their achievement and could also lead to international recognition of British apprenticeships. This would greatly support and promote our young people, while creating a reputation for Britain as a place where apprenticeships are highly valued, which would consequently boost our economy.
Amendment 3 makes provision for supervised training in the workplace as part of an apprenticeship. The value of practical work experience in a chosen field must not be underestimated. By providing supervised training as part of an apprenticeship, the employer may offer further guidance to the apprentice that may not occur otherwise. This amendment has additional benefits to learners in the sense that supervisors may feel inclined to ensure that the apprenticeship is successfully completed. This is a likely probability as the amendment could lead to employers building a rapport with learners that may lead to long-term mentoring after the completion of the apprenticeships.
I welcome Amendment 6 on the issue of apprentices’ certificates as it makes supervised training in industry a provision for which a certificate cannot be issued in its absence. This provision will ensure that learners get a broad experience of what working in industry will entail. The difference between apprenticeship and the traditional academic path of study essentially rests upon this requirement. This amendment will also add legitimacy to apprenticeships and will encourage a greater commitment from learners to really apply themselves to their courses. Students are awarded certificates after successful completion of their GCSEs and A-levels; it is right that this should be the case for completing an apprenticeship.
Amendment 13 states that employers should be given the freedom to decide upon the provision of the apprenticeships in relation to the workplace. Employers should be encouraged to sponsor apprenticeships and decide upon their content as they have full knowledge of the skills required by the industries. Apprenticeships should have the status of vocational courses, which are on a par with academic qualifications and give learners a clear path to a degree-level qualification. This method could prove to be an effective way of destroying the unfortunate stigma attached to vocational courses in certain circles. This amendment also provides apprentices with protection as they will be in a position to make a complaint should an employer renege on the terms of an apprenticeship agreement.