Commercial apprentice training is “appalling” and National Vocational Qualifications are “laughable,” local employers told a Parliamentary Select Committee hearing in South Yorkshire.
Members of the Business Industry and Skills Select Committee investigating the future of apprenticeships also heard calls for the reintroduction of the Engineering Industry Training Board, which oversaw the training of manufacturing apprentices until the 1990s.
Richard Cook, manufacturing and personnel director at Rotherham company AESSEAL, said the word apprenticeships had been devalued in many people’s eyes.
Mr Cook attacked the standards set by Level 2 and Level3 NVQs and criticised schools for failing to prepare pupils for work.
“The problem is we have a school system set up to teach children to pass exams of varying relevance, whereas they ought to be preparing them to earn a living by having a challenging and worthwhile career,” Mr Cook told the Select Committee hearing, held at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
Members of the Select Committee heard how local employers had tried to make up for the deficiencies of government and commercial training schemes by setting up their own Workwise work experience programme and engineering apprenticeships which set trainees targets well ahead of standard NVQs.
They were also told how Sheffield University was breaking down the barriers between apprenticeships, degree level studies and professional development.
Speaking after the hearing, Select Committee chairman Adrian Bailey said: “It was really illuminating to come here. There is obviously a big challenge if we are to meet the skills needs of manufacturing in the future.
“If there was one key issue it was about the engagement of manufacturing with schools and changing the teachers’ aspirations for young people to include manufacturing as a career.”