The government this week unveiled plans to expand Modern Apprenticeships and plug skills shortages in key sectors with the launch of a National Modern Apprenticeship Taskforce, writes Tony Tysome.
The 25-strong team, made up largely of captains of industry and chaired by Centrica chief executive Sir Roy Gardner, will look into ways to increase opportunities for young people to join such programmes and to boost employer involvement.
Chancellor Gordon Brown, in launching the initiative, admitted that until recently modern apprenticeships, designed to help young people develop skills in the workplace, were "all but dying out". He claimed they were now "flourishing", with 220,000 young people enrolled on the scheme.
He added: "But more must be done, and that is why the new task force is so crucial - bringing together employers, trade unions, the government and the voluntary sector - to ensure that the modern apprenticeships programme continues to grow and thrive and grow."
College heads said the task force would need to tackle urgently deep-rooted problems with modern apprenticeships if the government was to achieve its target of 28 per cent of all young people on a programme by next year.
The Association of Colleges called for improvements in the quality of schemes delivered through private training providers; the removal of restrictions on entry to modern apprenticeships, such as the age limit of 25; and more employer commitment to the programmes.