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Work-related education students are being given a warning over the prospect of more applicants.
The Government’s Work-Centre Plus, a programme that will see more than 5,000 students trained as full-time apprentices in the coming years, is now being used by companies and employers to inform them of the impact of the shortage of apprentices.
The warning, which has been published on a website, states: “It will be more difficult to find qualified candidates to fill these roles.”
It comes after it was revealed that apprenticeship courses in the UK had plunged to the lowest level since the Great Depression.
The UK government’s Work and Skills Minister, Esther McVey, has been warning employers that the government’s apprenticeship programme, known as the Work and Training Partnership, would be at risk of falling further behind if more graduates did not find jobs.
Ms McVsey said the new scheme would provide support to companies in the short-term, but it was “not the answer”.
“It is not the answer to a shortage of trained apprentices and I will not stop investing in it in the longer term,” she said.
“I am committed to supporting apprenticeship providers and supporting their ability to recruit and train new apprentices.”
We are also committed to ensuring apprenticeship is the right choice for those who want to work in the future.
“She said the Government was working with the sector to identify a pathway that would enable employers to “significantly increase” the number of apprentices they would hire.”
Our priority is to get employers who are currently using apprenticeships to start looking at using them again.
“The government is investing in apprenticeships in order to get people back to work, and in the process ensure the UK remains a competitive global labour market,” she added.
“There are many ways we can support the industry and we are working with employers to make sure they can do so.”
A recent report by consultancy firm KPMG estimated that the sector needed to increase its workforce by 10,000 apprentices over the next two years, adding that the number would not rise to its peak level until 2025.
The report also predicted that the UK’s unemployment rate would continue to fall, with more apprenticeships expected to fill the gap.
A report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, released in April, said there was a “significant shortfall” of qualified apprentices, with the UK economy relying on just 15,000 full- and part-time full-term apprentices for every 1,000 jobs created.
The National Council of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) said the situation was “devastating”.
A report from the National Council for Educational Research (NCER) also said the shortfall was “very high”, with only 15,826 full-, part- and temporary apprenticeships available to schools.
It also said that the current shortage was not being met by existing graduates, but by graduates from the existing vocational school system.
“As part of the work we do, we need to find more people to fill jobs in the new apprenticeship sectors,” a spokesperson for NCTL said.
“That’s why we are increasing the number in the apprenticeship sector from 6,000 to 7,000 over the coming year, which is what we are planning to do.”
NCER’s director, David Hargreaves, said the “real picture” was that “many schools and training providers are not making enough of the available apprenticeships”.
He said that apprenticeships had been designed to support the new entrants, not the previous graduates, and were “not suitable for the current labour market”.
“These skills will be very valuable to the future workforce, but there are also huge potential challenges that will emerge if more of our graduates do not find work,” he said.
But the National Audit Office (NAO) also criticised the Government’s approach to the shortage.
Its chief executive, Richard Boyd, said: “There are two distinct realities here: the shortage is not being addressed by existing workers and the existing graduates are not being able to fill apprenticeship vacancies.”
Universities must take action to address this problem.
“The NAO said the apprenticeships were not designed for the labour market and would be “a long-term investment for many”.
The NASUWT also warned that there were “significant risks” to the sector if the shortage continued.
A spokesperson for the NCTL said the current situation was unsustainable.”
It’s vital that we ensure we can recruit, train and retain people who can help our businesses create the best-performing workforce,” a spokeswoman said.