It is proposed that from 2017 all public sector employers with a headcount of 250 or more will have a target of 2.3% apprenticeships per year, based on its headcount. With a deadline of 4th March, the government is consulting on the details attached to these targets, e.g. should the percentage be based on full time equivalent (fte) rather than headcount? On this point, of course it should be established posts otherwise makes little sense. But isn’t the detail about headcount and reporting requirements a distraction? Shouldn’t the debate be focused on the quality of the apprenticeship experience and how employers need to challenge their organisations so that apprentices choose to stay and make use of the skills and experiences gained.
The government is already committed to prevent the misuse of the apprenticeship term and this should be applauded. Apprentices will need to gain job specific skills, earn a wage/ holiday pay, and study towards a related qualification. They should be paid the rate for the job in line with equal pay principles Whilst not exclusively, apprenticeships will attract younger people. How ready is an ageing public sector workforce to engage with and capture the hearts and minds of apprentices so that they see the sector as a career choice? Young people’s methods of communication, expectations, qualifications and experiences are different from the “average” public sector worker. Organisations cannot expect Apprentices to simply fit in to the organisation, without reflecting on the presenting culture and how this may need to move on. If this is not achieved, Apprentices will be engaged simply to meet the 2.3% target, whether this is headcount or fte, then leave probably disillusioned. At a time when the Public Sector is under financial pressure and where many staff are being shed, this initiative could lead to a much worse outcome than the normal pink elephant! Let’s try and implement these good ideas with little more intelligence. Targets can be helpful but quantity can’t replace quality.
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