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House of Lords debate warns over Apprenticeship Bill

Disabled young people may be excluded from apprenticeships because of entry requirements specified in current legislation, peers warned yesterday.

In a House of Lords debate on the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill, peers questioned whether provisions on access to apprenticeships were compatible with disability discrimination legislation.

The legislation specifies that applicants must have “level 1” qualifications, including in English and Maths. These represent basic skills and are equivalent to GCSEs at grades D or below.
Labour peer Baroness Wilkins raised similar concerns about deaf young people, adding: “A blanket requirement for a GCSE in English may disadvantage a deaf candidate whose first language is British Sign Language.”

Both Rix and Wilkins questioned whether the measure was compatible with the duty on public bodies, under the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, to promote disability equality.

In response, junior children’s minister Baroness Morgan said the government was “very committed to ensuring apprenticeships are accessible to all young people and adults”, but promised to look again at the requirements, saying it was “an important area for us to debate further”.

Young people would be able to pursue an apprenticeship without meeting the qualificaiton criteria but would not have an entitlement to one, she said.

I am glad someone highlighted this because a fair few Deaf people do leave school with no English skill at that level. They need second chance when they do leave school and, by adding this GCSE English entry requirement, it will further hinder the development of young deaf people who couldn’t access decent education at school.

Personally, I went through Youth Training Scheme (YTS) and I felt it gave me a great springboard to enhance my work opportunities later on in my 20s. I think the Government is totally missing the point with what the apprenticeship should be all about. It should be about an opportunity to learn vocational skills that are not readily available in schools. It will create a paradox in the education system in ensuring our next generation to acquire skills.

I don’t understand this obsession for needing to have layer after layer of qualifications to do simple job. For example, there is an NVQ course in becoming a cleaner. The mind boggles and this is bureacracy gone mad.

For that reason, I am looking forward to attend Worklessness Innovation seminar next Thurday.

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