Government moves to improve the prestige and importance of apprentices with a greater focus on further education and vocational training are welcome and long-overdue, according to the Builders Merchants’ Federation.
The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson MP, has said he wanted to end the culture of qualifications for qualifications’ sake and to pour money into further education instead. The Minister said there was an inbuilt snobbishness about those who take up vocational training rather than university. Consequently, he was abandoning Tony Blair’s admissions’ target set in 1999 that 50% of young people should go to university and take degrees. The Minister added that he would unveil a new German-style, employer-led further education policy later on this autumn.
This move came in the same week that Euan Blair, son of Tony, criticised the British obsession with a ‘one size fits all’ university education which could result in a skills’ crisis. Mr Blair junior is the Founder and Chief Executive of White Hat, a tech start-up company that matches non-graduates with apprenticeship opportunities.
Interviewed on “Times Radio”, he acknowledged the pledge his father gave 20 years ago, but said that too many leave university with ‘useless’ degrees, huge debts and without the necessary basic skills. Euan Blair wants to encourage school-leavers to take apprenticeships instead.
John Newcomb, BMF Chief Executive, commented: “This Government announcement is welcome news and endorses the long-held BMF view that bad or non-existent careers advice fails to encourage young people to take an apprenticeship in merchanting, or in manual trades that we desperately need in house-building and property RMI.
“In the post-Brexit and post-Covid 19 economic recovery, all efforts are necessary to tackle prejudice where parents see apprenticeships as being for kids who are educational failures, and teachers put pressure on pupils to go to university because it counts towards school performance in league tables.”
As part of its revitalised national youth recruitment campaign, the BMF launched the website Building Materials Careers to showcase the excellent career opportunities throughout the building materials supply chain. This is supported by a team of 55 Industry Ambassadors, drawn from the ranks of the BMF’s members, who promote the wide array of opportunities offered by the industry to students and young job-seekers throughout the country.
BMF Apprenticeships Plus also helps members to recruit and manage apprentices. Over the past three years, 54 member companies have recruited over 200 apprentices with our assistance.
Euan Blair has met the BMF before – notably the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Apprenticeships – where he, the BMF and other employers lobby for parity of esteem between academic and vocational education – and to improve current arrangements like the Apprenticeship Levy.