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Sector news, 24 May - 6 June 2015

Apprenticeship system 'failing to help Britain's young' 24 May 2015

A new report said the apprenticeship system is "failing" and needs reform to address youth unemployment. The study was commissioned by the Local
Government Association, and found 42 per cent of all apprenticeships created in the past five years went to people aged over 25. It said current policy enabled
businesses to train established workers rather than unemployed young people. The government however said the number of young people not in work, education or training was at its lowest in a decade, and it has pledged to create a further three million apprenticeships before the end of Parliament in 2020. Detailed
figures for the year 2013-14 showed under-19s applied for 57 per cent of the advertised apprenticeships but were given 27 per cent of them, whereas over-25s
made up 7 per cent of applications but filled 37 per cent of the vacancies. The report also found 67 per cent of intermediate-skilled apprentices were already
employed by their company when they were given their apprenticeships. A total of 24 per cent of 16-18 year olds, and 15 per cent of all intermediate
apprentices were not being paid the minimum wage, the report said.

FE responds to Apprenticeship and employment ambitions in Queen's Speech FE News, 27 May 2015

The FE News website reported responses from a number of leaders in the FE and skills sectors to elements of the Queen’s speech, including: Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, Chris Jones, chief executive of the City & Guilds Group, David Hughes, chief executive of National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) and Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development.

UK degree system in 'need of overhaul' Telegraph, 24 May 2015

The current university degree awarding system is no longer fit for purpose, a government-commissioned advisory group will say this week, and UK universities may shift their system for awarding degrees to be more in line with the US system. More than 20 universities began testing the use of a grade point average (GPA) in 2013. The GPA system awards students a points score on completion of their degree. The two-year pilot, ordered by the government, was aimed at addressing concerns that the traditional honours classification, now more than 200 years old, is outdated. Critics of the current system have said as more than 60 per cent of students graduate with a first or a 2:1 distinguishing between them in the race for jobs can be hard, and the importance of getting a 2:1 for a job encourages universities to award more good degrees, fuelling degree inflation. However others have argued that the GPA system also increases grade inflation in the long term, a fear often expressed in America. The report from the pilot, run by the Higher Education Academy (HEA), will be published this week, and is expected to recommend a national GPA system.

Prime Minister’s apprenticeships ‘troubleshooter’ taskforce officially unveiled FE Week, 3 June 2015

The Prime Minister David Cameron has appointed a “troubleshooter” taskforce which is set to track government progress on its target of three million apprenticeship starts by the next parliament. It contains eight MPs including Skills Minister Nick Boles and his predecessor Matthew Hancock, who is the Cabinet Office Minister and also chairs the group. They will be joined on the “earn or learn” taskforce by, among others, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. The group is also targeted with making sure all young people are either “earning or learning”.

Teenagers' 'promising futures at risk' from cuts BBC News, 5 June 2015

A Local Government Association survey of councils in England says 90 per cent have cut services for teenagers not in education, employment and training. Local authorities have seen funding cuts of 40% since 2010, and their responsibility for careers advice and further education has been removed. The government however said the teenage Neet rate was now 64,000 lower than in 2010, and it highlighted that it is investing £7bn "to fund a place for every 16- to 18-year-old in England who wants one".

One in three university students wish they had chosen a different course, says study The Independent, 4 June 2015

Nearly half a million university students believe they may have chosen the wrong course to study, according to a major new study. One in three told researchers that - knowing what they now know about their university - they would have chosen a different course. The study, was carried out for influential university think-tanks the Higher Education Policy Institute and the Higher Education Academy. A breakdown of courses shows students who are studying architecture or business and administration courses are the unhappiest - with 43 per cent saying they “definitely” or “maybe” should have chosen a different course. The happiest students are those studying medicine and dentistry - where only 14 per cent would consider swapping courses. One of the reasons students cite for their dissatisfaction is that they were not given enough information about their course before they signed on for it - 21 per cent saying the information they received was “vague” while a further 10 per cent said it was “misleading”. The proportion wanting to change, in general, is higher for those courses with fewer contact hours with lecturers. Overall, though, 87 per cent of the 15,129 students who responded to the survey said they were either “very” or “fairly” satisfied with their course.