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Chris & Co: Apprentices often 'shoehorned' into available courses

By Chris Price

High numbers of candidates fail to complete apprenticeships because learning providers try to “shoehorn” them into available courses, bosses have said.

However there are many things employers can do to improve the environment for apprenticeships according to Anita Brightley-Hodges, managing director of Family Business Place, and Finn Dunlop, general manager of Macknade Fine Foods.

The pair, who have both hired apprentices at their small businesses, were speaking on KMTV business show Chris & Co.

The claims come days after the KM Group launched the Kick Start Kent campaign, aimed at improving the number of apprenticeships being finished.

The percentage of courses completed compared to the number started has been below 60% for seven of the last 10 years.

Mrs Brightley Hodges, who runs her business at her home in Detling, said: “The figures don’t surprise me at all.

"The agencies involved don’t really get what’s involved when you joining a small business. It’s an attempt to shoehorn you into one of the available apprenticeships.

Engineer teaches apprentices

Engineer teaches apprentices

“That’s quite demoralising for some of the apprentices who come on board, who think they are going to be learning one thing and find actually what makes small business thrive is flexibility.”

Mr Dunlop, who looks after apprentices at the Faversham-based retailer, said there is much employers can do to improve the situation.

He said: “It’s really important to have a mentor or HR manager in each workplace to guide or mentor that apprentice through the scheme. Not only will the apprentice benefit but that senior member of the team will benefit.

“That is a really good way to make sure the apprentice stays the course.

“Also, the employer needs to look at the apprentice not just as a low cost means of employment.

“The employer needs to recognise that apprentice as a valued member of the team.

“Through that the apprentice will also get exposure to more areas of the business. It’s a two way thing.”

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?

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