The CBI Northern Ireland today commented on the review of apprenticeships. Kirsty McManus, CBI NI Assistant Director, said: “Top-quality training is the key to bridging the critical skills gaps in sectors such as IT, Engineering and Agri-food sector which fuel growth and keep Northern Ireland globally competitive.
“We welcome the Minister’s review of apprenticeships which will be extended to a wider range of occupations, while at the same time facilitating progression up the skills ladder from level 3 (equivalent to A level) to level 8 (equivalent to Doctorate), enabling apprentices to progress into higher professional or technical training or onto a higher academic pathway.
CBI Northern Ireland believe this is an opportunity to build a world-class vocational system in Northern Ireland instead of looking on enviously at countries like Germany and the Far East.
Apprenticeships are vital to raising skill levels in our economy, and supporting people into sustainable careers. The Minister is right to say the Government should prioritise apprenticeships, and make them about delivering high-quality training, not just about high numbers.
Countries that have historically placed a greater value on vocational education, such as Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, report much lower levels of youth unemployment than the UK. This is reflected in the take-up of vocational options in upper secondary education. In Germany, more than half choose vocational routes. In Austria and the Netherlands, the figure is even higher, at 67% and 71% respectively. But in the UK it is just 32%.
The Minister has listened to ‘voice of business’ in Northern Ireland by committing to:
- Creating employer-led apprenticeship programmes which deliver for the needs of the economy. Employers will now be in the driving seat to inform the content, duration and assessment of each apprenticeship, including test(s) at the end of the training period.
- Delivering a “UCAS style” system for apprenticeships that would allow young people to inform young people of the range of opportunities available.
- Developing a central support service for employers that will administer subsidies and other support, Centrally advertise employer apprenticeship vacancies and provide a matching service between employers and prospective apprentices.
- Removing the barriers to allow all age groups and to those who have already concluded an existing Level 2 to apply for apprenticeships.
- Opening up apprenticeships in the public sector, which currently accounts for 30% of employment in Northern Ireland
- Over training, whereby larger employers training more apprentices than they need to meet the needs of the supply chain.
Apprenticeships deliver good returns compared to other forms of professional and technical training, with high earnings for the apprentice over his/her lifetime. According to London Economics (2011) on average individuals with a Level 3 apprenticeship earn between £77,000 and £117,000 more over their lifetime than similar individuals with Level 2 qualifications.
We look forward to engaging in this critical consultation process and ensuring that we establish a viable financial model to resource the new model of apprenticeships and to support employers”
Addressing the Assembly during an oral statement, the Minister detailed 32 proposals contained within his Department’s Review of Apprenticeships Interim Report and officially launched a 12 week consultation on the future of apprenticeship training and provision in Northern Ireland.
The Minister said: “This review of apprenticeships has the potential to radically reform and improve the training and skills landscape in Northern Ireland for learners and employers, and is a top priority for my Department. It is my job to ensure that we have a pipeline of appropriately skilled people, so that our economy can operate at maximum efficiency.
“Whilst the current apprenticeship model has served us well, it is limited in a number of ways and needs to be transformed. The proposed new apprenticeship system for Northern Ireland will deliver highly skilled apprentices in areas of economic importance, for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Apprenticeships will be highly sought after by young people and employers, and recognised as a key route into many professional and technical occupations.”