A recent study by think tank Reform says many businesses are rebranding existing roles after being obliged to contribute cash to the apprenticeship levy, which can be offset by providing on-the-job training.
Entrepreneur and CEO of web hosting and cloud provider UKFast, Lawrence Jones is a champion of apprenticeships as a mechanism to meet the ever-growing digital skills gap, but is now voicing concern that recent positive work to change the reputation of apprenticeships is being put at risk.
UKFast CEO Lawrence Jones said: “This is an absurd devaluing of what's a brilliant way to develop skills and launch exciting careers. It seems apprenticeships are becoming something of a Wild West, where pretty much any work is being considered an apprenticeship.
“This hugely damages the brand of apprenticeships, which are now becoming a route that's seen as a genuinely viable alternative to university. ‘Allowing apprenticeships in anything, with no skills required, simply makes it a low-paid job and not an apprenticeship at all.
“Apprenticeships should be skilled opportunities where people progress and learn a trade whilst earning a fair wage. Some of these hospitality and retail apprenticeships are simply not worthy of the name.”
Current and former apprentices make up 15% of UKFast’s 400-strong team, with many apprenticeship graduates delivering and supporting cutting-edge technology solutions to some of the firm’s biggest global clients.
UKFast’s award-winning apprenticeship scheme has been hailed among the top 100 in the country, and the firm is now opening up its training facilities to other businesses to help train their apprentices.
Jones added: “There has to be a more rigorous standard for apprenticeships, especially as they're starting to challenge university courses in some sectors. Real apprenticeships deliver modern, practical curriculums and a structure allowing people to develop.
“Too many businesses are looking at the opportunity to save money on the apprenticeship levy and pay people a lower wage, without paying appropriate care to developing the value of their employees. They are exploiting young people and exploiting the tax payer.
“We see our apprentices at UKFast developing at an amazing rate and they’re truly invaluable to our workforce. We've created a dedicated learning environment and invested huge amounts of time, money and energy into these young people. Several of our recently graduated apprentices came in at age 16 and within three years were earning £30,000, because of the value of the skills they’re learning. I can’t imagine KFC competing with that.”