Employment Minister Chris Grayling has reacted to yesterday’s news of the increase in youth unemployment. He has a great solution to the lack of jobs for our next generation of workers and that is ‘increasing the number of apprenticeships and work experience opportunities’ (Children & Young People Now, 13th April 2011). A few weeks ago I noted that a forthcoming report by Professor Alison Wolf, to ‘investigate how practical education can be improved’ will conclude that over 167,000 young people in England are studying vocational courses that will not result in a job (The Guardian, 2nd March 2011). This review has now been published and Alison Wolf has herself commented on how ‘many vocational qualifications have no obvious market value at all’ (education.gov.uk, 8th March 2011).
Although this is a general statement and not necessarily related to apprenticeships specifically, this does raise the question ‘are policy makers mad?’ All types of work experience and hands-on understanding of the world of work are crucial opportunities for our young people to develop the skills they need to succeed in employment and in life. But are there really enough employers out there to cater for an increase in apprenticeships at this time of labour market contraction? Do businesses really have the time to offer support and mentoring to these individuals? Will we end up with yet more skilled youth signing on for benefits after a few months of finalising their placements? Only time will tell.