TLRP researchers Lorna Unwin and Alison Fuller have produced a commentary entitled Towards Expansive Apprenticeships.
Their earlier work in this area is outlined below:
Their 2003 article on Learning as Apprentices in the Contemporary UK Workplace: creating and managing expansive and restrictive participation illustrated the variable learning opportunities that were being created for apprentices under the Modern Apprenticeship, while in Turning Apprenticeship on its Head: how young people pass on skills and knowledge they illustrated how apprentices teach others as well as learn. Safety in stereotypes? The impact of gender and 'race' on young people's perceptions of their post-compulsory education and labour market opportunities (together with Vanessa Beck) examined the impact of gender and 'race' on young people's perceptions of the educational and labour market opportunities available to them after they complete their compulsory schooling in England. Its findings are based on a study of the views of girls and boys about the government-supported 'Apprenticeships' programme, which, because it reflects labour market conditions, is highly gendered and also segregated by ethnicity. The research shows that young people receive very little practical information and guidance about the consequences of pursuing particular occupational pathways, and are not engaged in any formal opportunities to debate gender and ethnic stereotyping as related to the labour market.
There is also a contemporary policy debate about the future of apprenticeship. The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee published Apprenticeship: a key route to skill in July 2007. The government produced a formal response in October 2007 and the evidence underpinning the report has also been published: Apprenticeship: A Key Route to Skill - Volume II: Evidence. The Nuffield Review of 14 - 19 education and training has also produced some Issues Papers with a view to widening the debate, testing out tentative conclusions and seeking further evidence. Apprenticeship I: Prospects for Growth asks: 'To what extent will the apprenticeship route contribute to the desired increase in post-16 participation in England?' It examines quantitative aspects of the prospects for growth in apprenticeship in England, while Apprenticeship II: A High Quality Pathway for Young People? addresses the issue of whether a balance can be struck between making apprenticeships attractive to employers and ensuring that they provide high-quality training for young people.
Paul Ryan and Lorna Unwin (2002) produced a trenchant criticism of the state of British apprenticeship at the time: Apprenticeship in the British 'training market'. Modern Apprenticeship was compared in this paper to both German apprenticeship and its national predecessor, Youth Training. Modern Apprenticeship shares many of the attributes of Youth Training, and shows some improvement in terms of skills produced. British apprenticeship performed poorly, in terms of rates of qualification and completion, as well as in breadth and depth of training, relative to its German counterpart, despite the provision by Modern Apprenticeship of substantial government financial support. The fact that MA resembles YT more than German apprenticeship reflects continuing institutional differences between the two countries, notably the limitations of the training quasi-market in which both YT and MA have operated. The prospects for MA to flourish, let alone perform the educational role that the government envisages for it, were considered bleak in the absence of institutional development along different lines.
Partly as a result of such criticisms, the Apprenticeships Task Force was set up in 2003 in order to increase the opportunities available for young people to participate in high quality Apprenticeships programmes with a range of employers; and to recommend effective and innovative ways of ensuring that Apprenticeships and Entry to Employment programmes responded to the changing needs of employers and young people. The Apprenticeships Task Force produced their interim report in November 2004 and their final report in July 2005. Employers still believed that that the delivery system was complex and that there was a need for greater collaboration and partnership between the key players. Areas of common purpose related to the structure of frameworks, including key skills, and the further linking of employers’ own training arrangements to the requirements of the Apprenticeship framework. A new ministerial-led steering group had been set up to address these issues and to consider include the balance in numbers between Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships and ensure adequate funding to support the expansion of Apprenticeships. A report on the effective delivery of apprenticeships was produced by the LSDA in June 2005.
The Employers for Apprenticeships website which supported the work of the Apprenticeships Task Force during its consultation phase 2003 - 05, and is now part of the Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network, has produced a number of documents on apprenticeship, including:
- an article in the CBI Human Resources Report, December 2004. by Richard Wainer, CBI policy adviser, on the business case for apprenticeships;
- the Joint DfES/LSC end to end review of modern apprenticeships, January 2004;
- a paper by John West on Improving completion rates in apprenticeships, 2005
- a background paper Finding Our Way: Vocational Education In England produced by John West and Hilary Steedman in April 2003. The paper analyzes the weaknesses of vocational education in this country and suggests how to remedy them. It argues that vocational education should be about progression, both to skilled employment and to further levels of education. Despite some strengths in the current system, the authors argue that vocational education has suffered a chequered history with numerous intiatives that has resulted in: "a confusing plethora of qualifications, with no image in the minds of young people, parents and employers about what vocational education involves;
high degrees of non-completion with switching between the many different courses and a dropping off of participation at 17; poor linkages both between the various types of vocational courses on offer, and between them and vocational offerings in higher education. A third of vocational students are on courses which could not lead to higher education, either directly or through further related course, even if someone excelled on it; poor linkages to the labour market, not helped by the fact that the industry bodies who are meant to set standards have been reorganized five times in the last thirty years, and twice in the last five years alone" (West and Steedman, 2003, pp i- ii).
West and Steedman (2003) went on to argue from the experience of other countries that the lessons for the UK are:
- "trying, as we seem to be, to offer vocational courses both as pathways in their own right and as options which can be mixed with academic subjects is unlikely to succeed;
- linkages with both higher education and apprenticeship is both possible and desirable;
- vocational education can be a respectable option, and certainly is not seen abroad – as it sometimes is here – as an alternative to academic subjects for those who are struggling at school;
- the quest for ‘parity of esteem’ between academic and vocational subjects is a wild goose chase. Far from raising the reputation of vocational courses it is likely to distort them and make them pale imitations of academic studies, with little purpose of their own.
- The right way forward is to develop substantial national vocational programmes, perhaps 15 to 30 in all, each culminating in an award at level 3, the first point at which vocational education has a demonstrable pay-off in the labour market" (West and Steedman, 2003, p. ii).
The Skills White Paper (2005), Prosperity for all in the global economy – World class skills (the Leitch review, 2006), A Summary of the Leitch review: a roadmap directing the UK towards world class skills, and the Leitch Implementation Plan (2007) and the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee report (2007) on Post-16 Skills show it is also important to see how apprentieship policy fits within a broader debate about national skill formation policy.
Other material on apprenticeship that may be of interest includes:
- an article from Paul Ryan, Howard Gospel, Paul Lewis (2007) on Large Employers and Apprenticeship Training in Britain
- an article from Paul Lewis, Paul Ryan, Howard Gospel (2008) on A hard sell? The prospects for apprenticeship in British retailing
- Steve McIntosh (2007) has carried out a Cost-Benefit Analysis of Apprenticeships and other Vocational Qualifications (summary) (full report)
- Hilary Steedman (2005) has produced a paper on Apprenticeship in Europe: ‘Fading’ or Flourishing? The German-speaking dual system countries are characterised as having high employer commitment countries with minimal integration of apprenticeship into full-time 16-19 provision and weak links with tertiary education. While the UK, the Netherlands and France are characterised as having relatively low levels of employer commitment but greater integration of apprenticeship into full-time provision and stronger links between apprenticeship and tertiary level provision.
- a brief History of Apprenticeship written from an American perspective;
- a review of and links to some English historical records on apprenticeship from the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries: 'Introduction: Apprenticeship', Calendar of the plea and memoranda rolls of the city of London: volume 2: 1364-1381 (1929), pp. XXX-XLVII;
There is also an interesting article from Sarah Vickerstaff (2003) Apprenticeship in the 'Golden Age': Were Youth Transitions Really Smooth and Unproblematic Back Then? where she challenges the taken-for-granted orthodoxy of contemporary youth studies and policy assumptions that young people's transitions from school to work have become extended and fragmented in comparison to the assumed 'untroubled' pathways of young people who left school in the period 1945-75. It is also possible to listen to some former apprentices of that time recounting their experiences in the BBC raido programme 'The apprentice';
Downloads from the International Network on Innovative Apprenticeship (INAP) website gives you access to the Proceedings and papers from two recent international conferences on Apprenticeship, in Vienna February 2008 and Bremen April 2006. INAP is an international network of apprenticeship researchers who aim to improve apprenticeship systems and practices through research into, and dissemination of, instances of good practice.
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