The government is set to spend another £40 million to promote ailing modern apprenticeships, as new figures reveal that it is falling further behind its targets for take-up of the flagship programme, writes Tony Tysome.
The extra cash is seen as necessary as the modern apprenticeships scheme is not only a central plank of the government's skills strategy but is also meant to form a progression route to foundation degrees, which, ministers hope, will help achieve higher education expansion targets.
Internal Learning and Skills Council documents seen by The THES show that extra cash is needed to persuade nearly 500,000 more employers to back the scheme if the programme is to hit the target of 175,000 young people by 2004-05.
The number of employers in the government's sights is so high because few "employer leads" amount to apprenticeship vacancies being offered.
A study for the LSC estimates that 432,500 employers will have to be enrolled to create some 86,500 new apprenticeship vacancies that will convert into the 69,100 more apprentices needed by July 2005 to hit the target.
Some politicians believe the problem is largely due to a lack of financial incentives for employers.
Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said: "Employers are trying to make a profit. They are not a training arm for the government."
A television and internet campaign to advertise apprenticeships is planned this year.