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Apprenticeship in England, United Kingdom

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One of a series of studies on vocational education and training, this review focuses on the apprenticeship system in England and concludes with policy recommendations.

England has launched a series of reforms that champion the institution of apprenticeship, and address some previous weaknesses. The reforms encourage more substantive apprenticeship programmes and a stronger funding framework. Despite these strengths, there is still some way to go to establish an apprenticeship system in England to match those of the strongest countries.

This report suggests several ways in which reforms might be adapted to achieve higher quality and better outcomes. An effective apprenticeship system involves various elements such as the development of the apprentice in the workplace by the employer and the broader education of young apprentices. The report argues that England should consider introducing regulations and standards to ensure that these elements are part of all apprenticeship programmes, and that the recently introduced apprenticeship levy supports high-quality training. In comparison to other countries, England has relatively few young apprentices. The report suggests England could facilitate transition from school to work by making better use of apprenticeships targeting school leavers.

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Different sectors of apprenticeship in England

Apprenticeships in England are exceptionally diverse. This chapter looks at the issues arising in three special types of apprenticeship: those at degree level, those in smaller employers and those in the public sector. Degree apprenticeships are likely to grow rapidly as they allow those involved to avoid student loans and subsequent debt. This will be a positive development, but only if it restructures university degrees into quality apprenticeships, rather than just a part-time degree plus a job. Small employers play a big role in apprenticeship provision, and may need special support, including advice on how to make the most effective use of apprenticeship. The rationale for the new apprentice target for public-sector employers is questionable, given that the public-sector workforce is already relatively skilled in comparison with the private sector. Targets for the public sector might therefore be better limited to the use of youth apprenticeship as a recruitment tool.

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