IT IS common ground between the parties that apprenticeships are an excellent thing and that there should be more of them. The Tories promise to fund 50,000 new apprenticeships using bank fines; Labour will require firms that hire workers from abroad to train local apprentices if they are to gain state contracts. All this is fine sounding — except that as Professor Alison Wolf, an expert in the field, points out, what is needed is not necessarily an explosion in the number of recruits but an insistence on the quality of their training.
“What [the parties] should be saying,” she says, “is that we want fewer, better apprenticeships, not that we are going to keep trumping each other in term of undeliverable numbers.” She is right: apprenticeships are fundamental to improving the skills of young Britons. But done badly, they provide little benefit for either worker or employer. The issue deserves to be taken more seriously by all the major parties.