Today’s provocative report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) casts doubt and raises concerns over the UK Government’s apprenticeship initiatives.

As a training specialist, I can agree with a number of its findings. The Apprenticeship Levy, which is due to be introduced in April 2017, will effectively be another payroll tax; the quantity of proposed apprentices may, in some cases, cause a dilution in quality; public money may be needed to be used to shore up schemes; apprenticeships may be taken up by those over 25 years old, and the term apprenticeship may become “just another word for training”.

I would argue however that these perceived risks are much less dangerous than the alternative.

There is a well-documented dearth of skills in the UK. The utilities industries cry out for new talent. Industry demands global competitiveness but our higher education sector is limited in what it can provide to support the UK’s practical skill-base.
So, in the face of these issues, the IFS’s concerns appear both somewhat petty and misguided.

If the worst that can happen with the scheme is that 600,000 new apprentices are trained annually and some of those people are in their late 20s, is that really so bad?

Of course it may be, if the quality of those apprenticeships is sub-optimal. But employers can protect against poor quality by simply working with training providers and colleges which maintain appropriate standards and work closely with those employers to get the best out of their apprentices.

Quality will decline if there is an abdication of responsibility on the part of employers and training providers alike. Given the framework provided by the Government it is however in both parties interests to make the most of that.