New ‘length of service’ rule…friend or foe for apprentices?


As from 1st August 2012, all apprentices will be forced to stay on their programme for at least 12 months regardless of ability level and their stage of development.

While not unhappy with this new ruling, it will penalise a number of our apprentices who are motivated, prepared to work hard and really want to get on.   Some of them are on apprenticeship wages rather than a full wage and want to work through quickly and progress with their employer to full wages.   From August, these learners will no longer be able to progress if they achieve within 10 or 11 months but will be made to stay on until the duration is complete.

This ruling has come about because some training providers out there are putting learners through very fast-paced apprenticeships driven by profit rather than the needs of the learners.   While not breaking any rules, this practice is not ethical and certainly not in the best interests of the learners.

Yet 3 years ago the Government bods responsible for apprenticeships held these same providers up as ‘innovative’ and ‘ground breaking’ and were actively encouraging us to get on board with this practice.  After all, it increased the number of young people undertaking apprenticeships, didn’t it?  It solved the problem of youngsters being registered as unemployed, didn’t it?

No, of course it didn’t!  In just 6 months’ time, the same youngsters were back on the unemployment register but now they were no longer eligible for any funded training courses and, as they only get one bite of the cherry, no one else was in a position to assist them.  We saw it coming, we banged our drum, we stamped our feet but all to no avail, no one listened!

Now after 3 years the same Government bods have realised it is not ethical to make large profits from the tax payers of the UK.  Nor is it moral to give these apprentices such short learning programmes, where they barely understand the skills they have learnt, where they haven’t been helped to secure sustained employment or had the opportunity to practise their new skills.

ITEC has been in the training field for nearly 30 years so we have a wealth of experience with training young people for employment.  Yet 3 years ago, even we were tempted to run an apprenticeship in just 4 months under the guise of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’!    What a disaster!  We very quickly learned this is not right for our learners as they need to be with employers, they need to develop their skills and grow within their jobs.  This can take anywhere from 10 months through to 18 months or so.

But isn’t that the point?  It should take as long as the apprentice needs.  It shouldn’t be governed by rules to stamp out poor practice.   These providers should have been dealt with by having their access to funding removed not by penalising the apprentices themselves!

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