Last updated: 25.07.14

Apprenticeship standards must recognise smaller firms, says IMI

The government has been urged to recognise the requirements and characteristics of Britain's smaller businesses when introducing new standards for apprenticeships.

Steve Nash, chief executive of the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), said one particular cause for concern is the possibility that models being debated by 'trailblazer' groups do not reflect the needs of small firms regarding issues such as funding, administration and skills.

Mr Nash is hoping to get some time with the new minister for skills, Nick Boles, to put across the argument that apprenticeship standards must not exclude smaller enterprises, reports the Training Journal.

The government has recently placed strong emphasis on apprenticeships, promoting them as a viable career option for young people and encouraging employers to view them as valid alternatives to A-levels or further education qualifications.

Mr Nash pointed out that the "new norm", as the government is describing apprenticeships, is already being widely adopted in the automotive retail sector. Analysis has shown a 4.2 per cent increase in apprenticeship starts in 2012-13.

"But going forward, the key to success will be ensuring that micros and small businesses, which make up around 75 per cent of our sector, can be as engaged in apprenticeships as bigger employers," added the IMI chief executive.

"We are concerned that those conducting trailblazer projects are being encouraged to develop standards at a minimum level three. Yet currently, the majority of apprenticeship completions in our sector are at level two."

The IMI argued that setting the benchmark at level three does not recognise that many businesses - particularly in the automotive industry - do not need all of the skills required to reach this standard. However, they still want to demonstrate their ability to undertake level-two work.

Mr Nash said these issues could prove highly significant in terms of the future success of the industry, which is why he is hoping to meet with Mr Boles as soon as possible.

Employers interested in supporting the development of apprentices, new starters and existing staff can do so through online learning courses, such as those provided by Virtual College.