Not enough bright people are joining modern apprenticeship programmes, resulting in high drop-out rates and low levels of attainment, said captains of industry this week, writes Tony Tysome.
More should be done to end the second-class status of the scheme, and to make it attractive to more able people and their employers, according to the Confederation of British Industry, which has surveyed the views of its members on the issue.
Careers guidance in schools is failing to point out the benefits of completing a modern apprenticeship, which can lead to the award of an NVQ level 3 - deemed broadly equivalent to two passes at A level, the CBI said.
There are about 140,000 people aged 16-24 on modern apprenticeships, but government figures published last autumn showed that fewer than a third of those leaving an apprenticeship had completed an NVQ level 3.
The CBI survey found that 85 per cent of its members surveyed had had employees who left them before completing their apprenticeships. More than half said they had apprentices who were unsuitable or not capable of completing, while nearly a third said their apprentices did not wish to finish.
A report on the findings recommends measures to raise the status of the scheme, including:
Recognising completion with some form of graduation ceremony
Introducing entrance requirements, such as four GCSEs
Assessing properly what kind of training each apprentice needs
Improving careers guidance
Funding incentives for employers to encourage apprentices to complete their training.
The CBI is concerned that funding for apprentices over the age of 19 will not keep pace with that available for 16 to 19-year-olds.
John Cridland, CBI director of resources, said: "Although the drop-out rates from modern apprenticeships are too high, there are many examples of high-quality schemes."