Committee report sceptical of length of apprenticeships

MPs have criticised the length of apprenticeship programmes after a report found a fifth of apprenticeships lasted for six months or less.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said that apprenticeships, as classified by The National Apprenticeship Service, should last between one and four years and branded shorter ones as having 'no real benefit' to either employers or employees.

Adult apprenticeships are now to last a minimum of 6 months, although normally at least 12 months, as announced last month by skills minister John Hayes.

However, it described the Apprenticeship Programme as an 'overall success' after it had quadrupled the number of adult apprentices taking part from 79,000 to 325,500 in the four years to 2010/11, with successful completion of apprenticeships rising from 34 per cent to 78 per cent in the six years before 2010/11.

The committee also voiced concerns about the amount and quality of training that apprentices receive and what they are entitled to, saying it is a problem the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills needs to address.

The Government has spent £451 million on adult apprenticeships during the 2010/11 financial year, with the National Audit Office estimating that such schemes deliver economic benefits of around £18 for every £1 of public funding.

Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts Margaret Hodge MP, said: 'Many employers still see apprenticeships as a cost rather than an investment. The Department needs to do more to promote the benefits of apprenticeships both to employers and individuals, so that England's Apprenticeship Programme can catch up with the programmes of other countries.'

According to the BBC, John Hayes commented on the report findings saying: "Typically an employer will see a return on their investment in around two years. A survey published this week shows that nine out of 10 apprentices are satisfied with their training and a third have received a promotion as a result."

However, he reiterated that the Government was far from complacent, saying: "A Standards Review will report in the autumn, recommending how to spread best practice and maximise the impact of Government investment."