The UK needs to introduce stronger regulation and enforcement in order to weed out sub-standard apprenticeship schemes and raise quality standards, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
In the organisation's submission to the Richard Review into the future of apprenticeships, the TUC expressed its concern that a minority of employers are providing poor quality schemes which risk tarnishing the "much-improved" reputation of apprenticeships.
In addition, the union notes that some companies are able to do this while still claiming government subsidies.
In its submission, the TUC points to recent statistics from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, which show that one in five apprentices are paid less than the minimum wage and the same proportion do not receive any recognisable training.
The organisation argues that, not only are poor quality schemes bad for apprentices, they are also bad for the job sectors that rely on apprenticeships if trainees are not prepared or able to move into work.
As a result, the focus needs to be on increasing the number of apprenticeships and supporting 'gold-standard' schemes that lead to good quality jobs.
In order to do this, ministers must use stronger regulation and enforcement, which could include prosecuting employers who flout minimum pay rates and giving apprentices a right to progress into employment or higher education.
"This would ensure that rogue employers cannot get away with using taxpayers' money to provide sub-standard courses," explained TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.
He said it is "great" to see that unions, employers and the political parties are fully behind the growth of apprenticeships and said they offer a "valuable route "into skilled employment.
"With one in five young people out of work, apprenticeships should provide part of the answer for dealing with our youth jobs crisis - as long as they lead to jobs," Mr Barber said.
"Unfortunately, the reputation of apprenticeships is being tarnished by a minority of dodgy employers offering half-baked schemes with low pay, poor quality training and little chance of a job at the end. Worse still, many of these companies are getting taxpayers' money for shoddy apprenticeships," he added.
By implementing stricter enforcement and regulation to clamp down on rogue schemes, ministers could bolster the popularity of apprenticeships amongst potential trainees and industry leaders, he suggested.
According to the TUC, the Richard Review will provide a "perfect opportunity" to raise the quality of apprenticeships, which would benefit millions of apprentices and the employers who use them.
Posted by Jack Painter