Apprenticeship programmes and local councils

We continue to get interesting and welcome feedback on our ‘mini-manifesto’
(https://bridgendgreens.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/press-release-bridgend-green-party-to-make-an-impact-in-the-local-elections-in-may/)

Today we have had a Labour Councillor suggesting that our pledge to push Bridgend Council to provide quality apprenticeships shows ignorance of the Apprenticeship Programme within BCBC. On the contrary, it is because of our awareness of the tokenistic nature of this programme that we feel so strongly about this issue.

Bridgend CBC is by far the largest employer in the county with over 7500 employees.

How many of these 7500+ employees are on apprenticeship schemes? FOUR (attached to Building Maintenance), or less than 0.05% (five hundredths of 1%)

How on earth can we expect other big employers (who will have a fraction of BCBC’s employees) to take apprenticeships seriously when the Council shows such a lack of commitment and ambition? Where is the hope for our young people in this?

Things are set to improve ever so slightly. There is a commitment in place to add two more to Building Maintenance in the autumn, and add maybe another half a dozen in areas such as Motor Vehicle Maintenance, Groundworking and Highway Maintenance. A dozen in total at best it seems. With the existing hundreds of unemployed youths in the county about to be joined by another batch of school leavers with no prospects of work, this is a scandalous situation that none of can afford to see.

This article in the Guardian, last October, stresses the importance of Councils taking a lead in apprenticeship take-up:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/public-leaders-network/2011/oct/27/councils-key-apprenticeship-construction-scheme

It stresses another strand of our mini-manifesto commitment on apprenticeships. Not only should Councils be taking on apprenticeships, but it should use its buying power to require suppliers to to commit to a minimum number of apprenticeship places during the procurement process. I can find no evidence of Bridgend CBC doing this – but would love to be corrected if possible.

The lack of ambition and commitment in BCBC is highlighted by the good practice shown elsewhere.

Sunderland Council recently received an award from Unionlearn for its quality apprenticeship programme. Their Chief Executive recognises the value to be had:
‘One of the key benefits in recruiting an apprentice is that their mix of on and off the job learning means they have the skills that work best for your service. Indeed, it’s been reported that employers who take on apprentices benefit from higher productivity, reduced staff turnover, and an improved skills base. An apprenticeship also develops the skills of local people and involves the local community in the delivery of local services.’

London Councils have provided over 2600 apprenticeships between 2009 and 2012 in fields as diverse as health and social care, animal welfare, engineering, horticulture, ICT, business administration and construction.

Sheffield City Council is committed to providing 100 apprenticeships a year either in house or through its partner organisations.

There are examples we can learn from from all over the country. Equally there are examples of bad practice we need to learn from too. We are certainly not advocating the abuses of apprenticeship provision highlighted by this recent Panorama programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01fm01r

It is absurd that companies like Morrisons can have 40% of its workforce enrolled on apprenticeships schemes. They are clearly exploiting the system with the complicity of private training providers (such as the now infamous A4e, with their Conservative Party connections). Everyone bar the poor apprentice is guaranteed to profit out of this sort of scenario.

As we say in our mini-manifesto, there is no greater blight on our collective futures than youth unemployment and it must be a top priority.

It is clearly not at the moment in BCBC – and only a Green presence in the Council chamber is likely to prick their consciences enough to make it so.

Andy Chyba

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