Value call over apprenticeships
The Government has been urged to set its sights higher to get better value from the millions of pounds it is spending on adult apprenticeships.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said adult apprenticeships offered a good return of around £18 for every £1 of public spending.
The spending watchdog said apprenticeships had expanded by 140% over a four-year period from 2006/7, with over 25-year-olds accounting for two-thirds of the increase. The biggest growth was in health and social care, customer services, retail, management and business administration.
The programme was well co-ordinated and better managed than the previous Train to Gain scheme, said the NAO, but it added that the Business Department could significantly improve value for money by targeting resources on areas where the greatest economic returns can be achieved.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said the department "needs to target resources more effectively, confirm the training provided is in addition to what would have been provided without public support and make sure that the funding system is informed by robust information on the cost of delivery."
Margaret Hodge, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, commented: "The apprenticeship programme has grown rapidly since 2006 and is benefiting both employers and apprentices, but there needs to be much greater focus on getting value for money from the 0.5 billion pounds spent each year.
"There are troubling signs that the apprenticeship market is not working as intended. Many employers are not paying their share towards training costs, the payments made to providers do not always reflect the costs of delivering training, and apprenticeships are concentrated in a small number of areas."
A separate report by vocational organisation City & Guilds showed that businesses would receive a £4.3 billion boost if a million extra apprenticeship places were created by 2013.
Chief executive Chris Jones said: "Not only will these apprenticeships inject a much-needed financial boost into our struggling economy, but they will also help tackle the current unemployment levels and ensure that businesses have the skills they need for their future growth."
Skills Minister John Hayes said: "I am delighted that the NAO has recognised the progress we have made and that they identify the extraordinary economic benefits of apprenticeships. Few, if any, other Government programmes produce anything like the return of £18 for every £1 spent."