Policy statement

UK Skills: Apprenticeships

This policy statement looks at how apprenticeships are essential to our economy as a prime source of raising intermediate skills in craft, technician and associate professional occupations.

Traditionally, the UK has an enviable record in the provision of higher education but performs comparatively poorly in providing intermediate skills. Of 30 countries surveyed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development the UK sits 17th on low skills, 20th on intermediate skills and 11th on high skills. The result is unnecessarily low productivity and low wages for many, to the detriment of the economy in direct and social costs.

While in recent years the UK’s skills base has improved, so has that of other countries, often from a higher base. Consequently UK skills remains mediocre by international standards. The number of UK citizens achieving university degrees and PhDs is similar to that in comparable countries; however, a larger share of UK pupils leave school without an education that gives specific competence in a professional field.

Apprenticeship is the most widely recognised aspect of the work-based route to skills development in Britain, particularly for people aged under 25. They are characterised by the apprentice being in employment with training delivered in the workplace. The training normally results in NVQ technical certificates in specialist work areas and wider skills, often including literacy, numeracy and IT.


Key recommendations

  1. Set (and inspect) minimum standards for the provision of impartial careers advice at schools and colleges to include the provision of information about the opportunities, demands and benefits of work-based training as well as those of further academic study – for all students.
  2. Encourage more companies to offer apprenticeships by positively promoting the simplification of employer engagement available through the National Apprenticeship Vacancy Matching Service.
  3. Better promote apprenticeships for the over-25s as an essential method of re-skilling. Key to this will be the funding of this age group on par with the 16-to-19 age group.
  4. Raise the status of engineering apprenticeships, particularly Advanced Apprenticeships by promoting the link between Advanced Apprenticeship success and membership of and professional registration through professional bodies.


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