In Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech, David Cameron reiterated his commitment to creating 3 million more apprenticeships.
‘A new Bill will help to create two million more jobs this Parliament. That means there should be a job for everyone who wants one – in other words, full employment. To help people get those jobs, we’ll train them up; three million more will start apprenticeships over the next five years’ (QS p5).
But in the Cameron/Osborne economy, job creation will depend on market forces, not government intervention. As a result this is soon qualified to mean only that:
‘New duties will require my ministers to report annually on job creation and apprenticeships’ ( QS p7).
In terms of the new apprenticeships however, there are much greater uncertainties. In labour market statistics, apprenticeships count as ‘jobs’ – apprentices are ‘employees’ and have to receive wages – even if employers are allowed to pay a lower legal minimum wage to some young apprentices.
During the last Parliament just over 2 million apprenticeships were established, but as the government’s own survey below shows, (Apprenticeship Pay Survey, DBIS 2014) many of these were for existing employees – rather than contributing to the 2.5 million new jobs the Coalition claimed to have created.
Proposals for improving apprenticeships, like that by Dragon’s Den entrepreneur Doug Richard,(Richard Review, 2012) have stated that apprenticeships should only be defined as new jobs and new roles, rather than current employees converting. In otherwords, Cameron’s promise for this Parliament is likely to be disingenuous, or at best, based on ignorance. With recent figures showing apprenticeship starts tailing off, it’s also likely to be pie in the sky.