Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Monday, 18 May 2009 16:22 UK

Most apprentices not new staff

Jobcentre scene
The government wants to promote apprenticeships in the public sector

Only 30 of the 1,395 apprentices on a public sector training scheme were new employees, the government has revealed.

England's Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills says ministers' priority is for public sector apprenticeships to go to new recruits.

But 98% of those on the Government Skills National Apprenticeship Pathfinder Scheme in 2008-09 were already in the civil service.

A Tory spokesman said re-labelling existing training helped no-one.

David Willetts, the shadow innovation, universities and skills secretary, obtained the figures in a parliamentary written answer.

Further Education Minister Sion Simon told him: "It is a standard route for apprentices to be in a job before they begin their apprenticeship, in both the public and private sector."

But Mr Willetts said the figures cast grave doubts on the government's ability to deliver on its promise to increase the number of public sector apprentices.

"Ministers are so concerned with chasing headlines that they seem to have simply renamed existing trainees," he said.

"As the recession bites, it is more important than ever to create new training opportunities.

"Ministers re-labelling workplace training as apprenticeships in order to meet targets helps no-one."

Too few teenagers in England are starting apprenticeships, partly because of poor careers guidance, a recent report by the Skills Commission said.

'Great success'

A spokeswoman for the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills said that when employers ran apprenticeships for the first time they offered them to existing employees. This then led to the recruitment of new apprentices.

"This year the public sector has committed to offering 21,000 new apprenticeship opportunities.

"We have said that the priority for these places will be young people 16-18 working in the public sector, and particularly those not currently in education or training.

"A number of public sector employers are also exploring, with our encouragement, how to bring about an 'apprenticeship assumption' where all new or vacant posts are automatically considered for their potential as an apprenticeship place."

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