The Government is seeking to raise flagging interest in the modern apprenticeship scheme by pumping more than Pounds 1 million into a month-long television and radio advertising campaign, writes Simon Targett.
The scheme, piloted in 1994/95 and launched formally last September, looks like failing to meet even the modest national take-up targets. Latest official figures show that just 13,726 young people have signed up to complete work-based training leading to a level 3 national vocational qualification.
Yet the target figure is 30,000 by March and 60,000 by September. By the end of the decade, the Government wants to see 150,000 new apprentices in training in England at any one time.
General awareness of NVQs is around 85 per cent among employers. But the recent report by industrialist Gordon Beaumont, published last month by the Government, showed that understanding of the qualifications is still poor.
By contrast, general awareness of the modern apprenticeship scheme is low, and the advertising campaign will seek to raise awareness among young people aged 15-19 as well as managers of small and medium-sized companies.
There will be a 20-second TV commercial aimed at young people. More employer-focused commercials will appear in three 40-second radio ads, and the message will be that the modern apprenticeship scheme "is a sound investment for their company". Some teletext pages will also carry information. This strategy follows last year's Government Free Your Potential campaign.
Mr Beaumont criticised the marketing of NVQs. But there are now doubts about the wisdom of this latest advertising campaign not targetting parents.
According to Martin Cross, chairman of the Joint Council of National Vocational Awarding Bodies, parents are the "initial barrier" because "they are reluctant to recommend something they have never heard of".