There are perhaps 100,000 level 3 apprentices in the UK with a target for 400,000 by 2020. Few apprentices are guaranteed employment as they were in 1968 when a quarter of male school-leavers followed this route to work. Since this peak they have declined because employers no longer want apprentices. Instead, many jobs have been deskilled and outsourced. John Major's Modern Apprenticeships were thus "modern" because they were not sanctioned by trade unions and nor did they guarantee employment. Now MAs/Youth Training Schemes reborn as phoney apprenticeships will offer vocational diplomas that employers, schools and higher education do not want but delivered mainly by further education in the derided public sector - like that other unnecessary qualification, the "foundation" degree.
Instead of invoking an illusory industrial past with Terry Watts and Gordon Brown, we need real reform of 14-18 education and training.
Patrick Ainley , Greenwich University.