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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 17:49 GMT
Plan to tap apprenticeship demand
electrical apprentice
There are more than 200 apprenticeships in 80 sectors
The government wants to expand the number of apprenticeships in England and to make it easier to match up would-be trainees and employers.

It might not be widely known, but some apprenticeship schemes are harder to get onto than courses at Oxbridge.

Suitable applicants to study engineering science at Oxford, for example, have a one in three chance of getting in.

Engineering apprenticeships with British Gas are in such high demand that suitable applicants have only about a one in 15 chance of being accepted.

The director of the British Gas Academy, Rod Kenyon, said: "We've no doubt that young people's confidence in the value of an apprenticeship, as a route to a successful career, has increased.

"Applications at their peak in the last year hit 6,000 for around 400 places at our training centres.

"Our aim is to hire people who will help to make our business grow, and we've attracted people with good GCSE results, go-getting attitude and enthusiasm, who are proving to be a great asset.

Other major employers such as BT or Rolls-Royce can tell similar stories.

From a ministerial perspective these are successes that do not require government intervention.

The problem is they mean thousands of would-be apprentices every year are being turned away from pursuing careers in exactly the sort of skills areas the country needs.

So the government is anxious to spread the word and spread the load, through three main routes.

Vouchers

Government advisers argue that young people can be empowered by being guaranteed funding to pursue an apprenticeship.

This would range from 3,000 for some skilled jobs to as much as 15,000 for a high-cost sector such as engineering.

With this financial backing, the idea is they can go to an employer and ask to be taken on as an apprentice - even with a firm that has not previously run such a scheme.

Matching

Someone wanting to go to university does so through the admissions service, Ucas.

There is no equivalent for someone wanting to do an apprenticeship, so the government intends to set one up.

Unlike Ucas, which is very much UK-wide, any apprenticeship-matching system would need to be able to operate on a very local level.

There are very few nationwide apprenticeships with residential places, such as Network Rail and the armed forces.

But mostly people join schemes within a few miles of their home and a mechanism is needed to bring together employers and prospective trainees on that sort of scale.

A trial service has been operating in Kent and Sussex.

Public sector

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, talking about apprenticeships in his education speech, remarked that only 95 a year were completed in Hackney against more than 2,500 in Hampshire.

The explanation is that Hants has the kind of high-tech employers who typically offer apprenticeships, whereas Hackney - simplifying to make a point - has a couple of blokes in a lock-up under a railway arch.

The government thinks the key to increasing opportunities in under-provided areas could be the public sector.



SEE ALSO
Brown threatens failing schools
31 Oct 07 |  Education
GCSEs 'not the end of the line'
22 Aug 07 |  Education
Peers seek more apprenticeships
20 Jul 07 |  Education
Apprentices can now study first
27 Apr 07 |  Education

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