Home   Kent Business   County news   Article

Huge numbers of young people not finishing apprenticeships in Kent prompting new Kick Start Kent campaign

By Chris Price

College bosses have said it is “appalling” that the number of apprenticeships being completed in Kent is lagging well behind the number started.

Just over half the apprenticeships started in the county ended with candidates finishing the course in seven of the last 10 years, official figures indicate.

In three of the last five years there were fewer than half the number of apprenticeships completed compared to those started, according to statistics from the Department for Education and Skills Funding Agency.

A young engineering apprentice

A young engineering apprentice

It comes as businesses prepare for reforms coming into force in April designed to increase the number of people taking the route.

These include the apprenticeship levy, which will make all large employers with a wage bill of more than £3 million pay a 0.5% tax on their pay bill, which will be used to fund apprenticeship training.

There are concerns the measures will be a failure unless the number of people completing apprenticeships gets closer to the numbers started each year.

In 2010/11, there were 11,480 apprenticeships started acrss Kent but only 4,730 completed – equivalent to 41%.

The percentage of completions has been below 60% for seven of the last 10 years.

The number of apprenticeships being finished lags well behind the number being started in Kent

The number of apprenticeships being finished lags well behind the number being started in Kent

The KM Group is launching a new Kick Start Kent campaign to raise awareness of the shortfall and put pressure on the government, training providers and employers to improve standards.

The campaign led to 88 employers hiring an apprentice when it was first launched three years ago – attracting the endorsement of the Duke of York – but has shifted focus to the number of apprenticeship completions to help deal with the county’s shortage of a skilled workforce.

“I think it’s appalling,” said Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, joint chief executive and principal of Hadlow Group, which runs Hadlow College, West Kent College and Ashford College among others.

“A 56% success rate [in 2013/14] is dreadful. That means for every 10 apprentices five are brilliant and five aren’t good enough. That is rubbish.

Hadlow Group deputy chief executive and principal Mark Lumsdon-Taylor

Hadlow Group deputy chief executive and principal Mark Lumsdon-Taylor

“Success rates have got to rise. That comes down to responsibility from employers to make sure they are not treating apprentices as cheap labour.

“They have a duty of care for that learner otherwise they are just factory churn.”

There is a large variation across Kent, with Rochester and Strood leading the way for apprenticeships in the county.

Cllr Alan Jarrett, leader of Medway Council, said the government must resist the temptation to chase “sexy” targets at the expense of quality provision.

The government has an ambition for three million people to have started an apprenticeship nationally by the end of this Parliament in 2020.

Tonbridge and Malling had the fewest number of apprenticeship starts and finishes across Kent

Tonbridge and Malling had the fewest number of apprenticeship starts and finishes across Kent

Rochester and Strood had the largest number of apprenticeship starts and finishes

Rochester and Strood had the largest number of apprenticeship starts and finishes

Cllr Jarrett said: “It could be a parallel with the previous government saying they want 50% of the population going to university.

“That was not 50% to study engineering or key drivers of the economy. They just wanted everyone to go to university and it didn’t matter if they did hairdressing or origami.

“It’s about providing apprenticeships to give people the skills they need to get into the employment market.

“The government has set this target and like a lot of targets it has not been thought through.

“Someone in Whitehall has said three million sounds like a sexy number. They have said ‘we’ve got to have a set number and it doesn’t matter where they are’.

“The success rates should be much better but I think it will change..." - Chris Hare, MidKent College

“Surely that says people will be apprentices in places where those job skills in the apprenticeship programme aren’t needed.”

There were doubts raised about whether the figures are as bad as they seem.

Pauline Smith, a former director of supporting independence at Kent County Council, who is chief executive of Ashford-based young people’s charity CXK, said: “You can’t assume that because there is only 55% achievements that the other 45% are disengaged.

“The easy assumption is that the 45% have failed but many will have had an alternative positive outcome.

“An employer may have a permanent job come up and ask the apprentice to go for it.”

The national apprenticeship success rate is 71.7%, a figure which MidKent College executive director Chris Hare said providers in the county should be targeting.

He said: “The success rates should be much better but I think it will change. New standards coming into force in April are more realistic. The current frameworks are very old.

“These tailored programmes will meet employer and apprentice needs. There will be less room for the apprentice to become disinterested.”

The KM Group is launching the Kick Start Kent campaign aimed at creating a better environment for employers to hire apprentices and for people to start a career using the route.

The campaign was first run three years ago, when it led to 88 employers hiring an apprentice in the county, and is returning to champion apprenticeships again.

Its key focuses are:

Apprenticeship finishes

The government set itself a target of getting three million people to start apprenticeships by 2020 but this figure is worthless unless people are finishing the courses and benefiting the economy. What can be done to improve completion rates?

Apprenticeship reforms

Are measure like the apprenticeship levy being correctly and fairly administered and improving the environment for apprenticeships?

Awareness

Are schools, colleges and parents making students aware of the option?

Join the debate...
Comments |

Don't have an account? Please Register first!

The KM Group does not moderate comments. Please click here for our house rules.

People who post abusive comments about other users or those featured in articles will be banned.

Thank you. Your comment has been received and will appear on the site shortly.

 

Terms of Comments
We do not actively moderate, monitor or edit contributions to the reader comments but we may intervene and take such action as we think necessary, please click here for our house rules. If you have any concerns over the contents on our site, please either register those concerns using the report abuse button, contact us here, email multimediadesk@thekmgroup.co.uk or call 01634 227989.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More