EAL says a more 'joined up approach' needs to be taken by the government to reduce red tape

A leading awards body for the building services and engineering sector has called on the government to adopt a more “joined-up approach” to apprenticeships.

The demands by EAL come on the first day on National Apprenticeship Week. It follows a range of new ideas and incentives introduced by the government over the past year.

Ann Watson, EAL's managing director, said: “While we wholeheartedly support the rationale behind these ideas, the government is neglecting what's feasible for employers.

“We are calling for two clear policies on apprenticeships: first, practical support for employers with tangible financial incentives, and second, for apprenticeships to be overseen by one government department.”

Watson said offering incentives to employers to train apprentices was a “great idea”, but warned that red tape associated with such incentives could confuse employers, especially SMEs.

“A more practical incentive would be to offer employers a break on National Insurance for the first two years of an apprentice's time with the firm,” she said. “What the government must realise is that apprenticeships are a long-term investment, so it needs to offer long-term incentives.”

The organisation also called for a more seamless approach to apprenticeships from the government, highlighting how they fall under the influence of three departments.

Watson said that in an ideal world, just one department would deal with the apprenticeship question by drawing on the combined knowledge of parties from government and industry.

It comes as new research by the Electrical Contractors' Association showed the majority of 16-17 year olds are still choosing university over apprenticeships.

Studies commissioned by the ECA showed that 77% of 16-17 year olds surveyed had not considered becoming an apprentice over going to university.

Iain Macdonald, head of education and training at the ECA, said the results did a disservice to the role of apprenticeships.

“You simply can't go to university and learn a trade; but as a country, we recognise that trades, such as electricians, builders and plumbers, make up the cornerstone of our economy,” he said.

“This research shows that the Government needs to do more to promote apprenticeships in key trades, as apprentices represent the future, not just of the British skills sector but of UK Plc itself.”