Apprenticeships — again!

Apprenticeships seem to appear in the news every couple of years — about the length of time it takes to complete one.

The latest news, according to the Telegraph, is that:

Burberry, Unilever and TNT are among 250 employers that will begin offering degree-level apprenticeships for the first time under a new scheme to make the on-the-job training programme a viable alternative to university, the Government revealed on Thursday.

Business Secretary Vince Cable made the announcement a few days ago. For anyone wondering, the £18.7m funding for 19,000 places was already earmarked during the summer.

That apprenticeships become an alternative to university is as it should be — and how it used to be.

The Telegraph added (emphases mine):

In Tuesday’s Autumn Statement [November 29, 2011], the Government announced it would review the apprenticeships system to explore how to make the scheme more useful for employers. The scheme was criticised recently after it emerged thousands of new apprenticeship places went to existing employees over 25, instead of creating new jobs for young workers.

It is to be hoped that these places go to young men and women who completed secondary school in the United Kingdom and at present have no future.

A few of the comments following the article say that we should not be blaming teachers for the current lack of job placements for our own young state-educated men and women. Yet, the early episodes of the current Masterchef – The Professionals showed that some of these kids think they can try and try again — starting out with the least effort possible and believing their chances are endless — only to meet with failure. I can almost hear a young secondary school teacher saying, ‘That’s all right, you just keep trying.’ Yet, it was painfully apparent that some of the young Masterchef sous and commis chef contestants thought they could lark about with little to show for their culinary efforts.

What might have been ‘all right’ with Miss Jones or Mr Smith at school is not going to cut it in today’s competitive world.  This brings to mind a banner in one of the vocational classrooms in the secondary school I attended:

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

I have remembered that saying for over 35 years.  Every classroom — regardless of academic subject — should have it prominently displayed.

There are two other elements at play with apprenticeships and the type of people who are the target market, if you will. One involves behavioural issues which seem to plague an increasing number of young people today. It appears that there hasn’t been enough discipline at home or at school to clear up the problem. I refuse to believe that Britain has so many young people who truly have ADHD — or whatever this week’s term for it is. It’s more likely that their lives have never been structured towards critical thinking, self-reliance, hard work and a can-do attitude. If these are absent at home, they are also likely to be absent in school.

The other problem is an absence of the seven virtues, such as diligence, humility and patience. This is what I have found on Web posts concerning apprenticeships and entry-level jobs. Note how often patience and diligence show up:

Apprenticeships in general and in hospitality (from

Once you complete your apprenticeship, you will be a skilled professional who, if you work hard and have a good work ethic, will be in great demand for years to come …

You can, of course, obtain apprenticeships in the field of hospitality but you can also get in on the bottom rung, for example washing dishes in a hotel kitchen, and work your way up to the position you strive for, perhaps hotel manager. Most people in the hospitality industry should not be afraid of a little hard work and long hours on your feet.

Fashion industry (from Teen Vogue):

Landing a job or internship in any popular industry is always a challenge: there are undoubtedly more qualified people than there are positions available. But with patience, persistence, and a positive attitude, you can make your dreams come true.

Well, maybe, but the point is — be patient and be prepared to work!  Here’s one more:

IT (from, accompanied by a photo of Churchmouse’s nemesis!):

Programming is a very mentally demanding task and it requires tons of patience and practice ...

ICT support technicians can deal with either software (the programs and systems on a computer) or hardware (the physical elements of a computer – its inside parts and accessories) depending on the type of role they have and what company they work for. Again, patience is required for this type of job, especially regarding the phrase “Switch it off and switch it back on again.”

It seems that we have taken the notion of instant gratification too far with the current generation. Everything must be available ‘now’, ‘on demand’, ’24/7/365′.  Forget patience and perseverance.

Instantaneous success and money are the order of the day.  I really hope that the apprentice schemes work, but until parents’ and teachers’ attitudes change, it’s doubtful.

11 comments for “Apprenticeships — again!

  1. December 8, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    The thing worrying me is who will be the masters, now that the various industries have died off and who will be the journeymen?

    • December 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm

      I know what you mean, James.

      Still, there are plenty of other fields — trades such as electricians, plumbers, decorators, bakers, pastry chefs, butchers, jewellery makers.

  2. December 8, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    The cult of IT in schools has much to answer for. Not only do pupils expect to have all the answers at their fingertips, it has altered their perception of their own ignorance.

    In the words of a head teacher; ‘Children believe that the imprimatur of the internet gives a statement an authority and a value that are unquestioned’.

    Armed with instantaneous access to knowledge, they see no reason to learn, or to think for themselves. Compound this with constant praise and positive marking (no question these days of deducting a mark for every mistake!) and, as you say, we have a generation many of whom are so arrogant as to be virtually unemployable.

    (One thing I would ask, though; don’t be too quick to blame teachers as a whole. While some are definitely contributing to the situation, there are many who devote much time and energy to battling the prevailing Zeitgeist, despite the conditions laid on them by management – only three corrections per piece of work, mark in non-confrontational colours, positive remarks only in reports, don’t damage their self-esteem with sarcasm and so on….)

    • December 8, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      Totally agree, Macheath, on the first three paragraphs. Some universities are even giving out guidelines to students now on how to do a proper internet search — how to sift through the rubbish and get to something substantial.

      Whilst I accept what you’re saying in the final paragraph, it still boils down to the education establishment. I do not think much of the NUT. And most of the teachers who comment on the Times Education Forum are Guardian readers with quite wishy-washy attitudes. In one breath they despair of poor behaviour; in the next they say, ‘It can’t be helped’.

      I’m not sure that any educators — state or private — can escape the pervasive left-wing dogmatism that is part and parcel of our schools. Even browsing Tatler’s annual survey of Britain’s best schools shows that more headmasters are adopting a casual, ‘pastoral’/therapeutic, ‘child-centred’ approach to education. 🙄

      The teachers I know — most of whom are in the private sector — used to be much more conservative in their socio-political thinking than they are after many years in the classroom. Teacher training days with their dialectic process no doubt contribute to the problem. In the end they go lefty.

      • December 8, 2011 at 9:54 pm

        True, there is a perceptible shift in schools – though in many places, the old guard still stand firm – and I agree that ‘professional development’ has much to answer for.

        In the independent sector, some change is also motivated by a new generation of first-time consumers of private education whose expectations differ somewhat from previous parents and who see themselves as paying customers, in a position to dictate terms.

        In private or state education, much of the ‘progressive’ drift is imposed from above; governors have a lamentable tendency to be swayed by management-speak and promises of ‘innovation’ when intervewing prospective heads. The result is heads like one I heard of today, who wants to rename school reports ‘appraisals’ – “because the word contains both ‘praise’ and ‘raise'”.

  3. December 8, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    I used to go out with a teacher at a special needs school (oddly one of the most right wing people I’ve known, including having been in OUCA at the same time as Jacob Rees Mogg and George Osborne). Her professional assessment was that ADHD was in almost every single case merely a medical diagnosis for being an arsehole.

    • December 8, 2011 at 11:17 pm

      Thank you very much — (non-ADHD)AHOLE-diagnosis confirmed! 🙂

      Enjoyed reading your blog — especially was pleased to see that you could be Father Christmas at your local primary school. Well done!

      Hope you have a very happy Christmas! If that seems premature, the run-up is half the fun!

  4. BJ
    December 8, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    One of the things I’ve stumbled across recently is that schools actually deterred pupils from taking up apprenticeships.

    The schools were set on meeting targets to get youngsters into university under the last Labour regime.

    I know of several ex-apprentices who were still working for the company that trained them, who were asked by the company to go into schools and persuade youngsters to consider apprenticeships – any approach was spurned by the schools.

    I often wondered how many young people, not suited for university, actually went and dropped out, but could have been ideally suited for an apprenticeship in one of the crafts or trades.

    • December 8, 2011 at 6:47 pm

      Interesting about schools refusing apprentices going to speak to students. Parlous, especially today with all our foreign labour.

      When I was in secondary school, the careers/guidance counsellor always said that not everyone was meant to go to university. At the time, I thought that was cruel, but thinking back now, she was right.

      We had a couple young decorators — supervised by the company owner — do some work for us a few years ago. They did a good job, although you could see that one had an attention span issue and the other was a bit high-strung. He did have to redo a few things and was clearly unhappy about it.

      I know of someone else who left school for a bakery apprenticeship. They were quite keen to keep him on even though he larked about, but he said he was bored. He left after a year.

      The problem is — and whether this is by TPTB/education system design or accident, I don’t know — but young men who can’t hold down jobs are putting the British family structure at risk. Few girls are going to live with or marry a chap who can’t earn a steady income. Call it an evolutionary principle or a materialistic one, but women will select on the basis of a potential partner’s employability and ability to put food on the table, even if they (the women) also work.

      That is part of the problem we are experiencing now and might go some way towards explaining why women want children but don’t want an unemployed father around. I realise that there are other issues here, too, relating to state benefit. Both together are a toxic recipe for societal breakdown which produces potentially feral teenagers (e.g. the English riots in August).

  5. Mudplugger
    December 8, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    But what’s all this obsession with so-called ‘degree-level apprenticeships’ ? It’s nothing to do with degrees and should not be tainted with that other-world metric.

    An apprenticeship is a long-term personal contract between an employer and a young employee, under which the employee agrees to conduct him/herself in a defined manner and the employer agrees to provide positive training throughout the period, leading the employee to a defined skill-level. This arrangement worked positively for generations until the fatuous obsession with ‘plastic’ qualifications took hold, handing every youngster utterly worthless certificates in value-free subjects of no practical application in the real world.

    Any chance of getting back to that earlier reality ? Probably not, so we’ll still import Polish plumbers ad infinitum while our own young people try to work out why the world doesn’t fit the model they were conned into swallowing by their self-serving ‘educators’.

    • December 8, 2011 at 10:49 pm

      Agreed. Remember Labour’s qualification in cake decorating? (My advice: get a pack of plasticine and practice thicknesses and shapes until you can do it blindfolded. Then move on to fondant icing. Rinse and repeat. Save some samples to show potential employers. Fondant doesn’t tend to go off.)

      There is little chance of our moving on as a nation immediately for all the reasons you state. Meanwhile, the Polish plumbers will have all had a reasonable upbringing, decent education and, consequently … the willing to pursue an apprenticeship towards professional status. Hmm.

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