Modern apprenticeships are popular with employers, but questions remain over their suitability for a wide range of sectors and their funding in the future, according to a report by the Industrial Relations Services, writes Simon Targett.
Some 1,900 apprentices are taking part in the national pilot scheme, which was launched last September. Fourteen Training and Enterprise Councils have set up the schemes in different economic sectors. The IRS, which surveyed 15 organisations developing the programmes, says that employers appreciate the breadth and quality of the training offered by modern apprenticeships, especially in the engineering and manufacturing sectors. Some 600 of the 1,900 apprentices are involved in the engineering sector.
According to report author Julian Macqueen, big retailers have also been attracted by the scheme because the industry lacked a formal progression route for people who were management material but who did not go to university. Sainsbury's has up to 30 available nationally.
But generally employers from retailing as well as the travel and tourism sectors have not responded so favourably to the modern apprenticeships, not least because they lack an apprenticeship tradition.
Sheila Redwin, from Surrey TEC, the lead TEC for travel, said that the sector is reticent about the national vocational qualification framework that underpins the scheme because it has its own well-established career development path.
A wider problem is funding. Financial support from the TECs will drop after the end of the prototype year in September, and the IRS reports that some employers are hesitating about extending their programmes.
According to the report, this could spell danger for the scheme, since "success depends on long-term government funding".