The Industry Training Act 1992 set up industry training organisations (ITOs) to take over apprenticeship training. The traditional apprenticeship contract was replaced with a training agreement between the trainee, the employer and the ITO.
ITOs, run by individual sectors of industry, set national standards for training, arranged the training and assured its quality. Traineeships became offered in new areas such as tourism and travel, social services, and sports, fitness and recreation. The government’s main role was to encourage industry to take up the new system, promote efficient forms of training and help fund the training process.
Under the ITO system, training standards were assessed on the basis of competency instead of time served. Trade and advanced trade certificates were replaced by unit standard-based national certificates, which formed part of the National Qualifications Framework, the basis of the nationwide education system. In 2008 ITOs had more than 180,000 trainees, a reversal of the long-term decline in apprenticeship numbers.
The Modern Apprenticeships scheme was started in 2002 to respond to the low numbers of young people in training by increasing awareness and promoting workplace-based training. The scheme was aimed mainly at young people up to the age of 21, but was also available for some people wanting to start a new career. A national network of co-ordinators recruited and placed apprentices in workplaces, supported their training and mentored them to reduce the dropout rate.
Modern Apprenticeships were available in industries that traditionally had apprenticeships such as building and plumbing, but also in those that had not, such as the public sector, retail, forestry and road transport. There were almost 13,000 modern apprentices in 2008.
Trading up to a trade
In the early 2000s skilled trades recovered some of the status and appeal they held in the 1950s. It became increasingly common to find professionals from the IT or finance sectors choosing to retrain in trades such as construction or horticulture.
The value of industry training
Research in 2004 found that people who received industry training were likely to be up to 20% more productive in their jobs. Workplaces that made changes to take advantage of this training, or offered training that was part of a formal programme such as through an ITO, could gain even greater productivity benefits.
As shortages of some work skills became severe, employers began to consult the ITOs about how to make the best use of the existing skills in their workforce. The strategic leadership role of ITOs was recognised by a change to the Industry Training Act in 2002.
In the 2000s some traditional problems with industry training remained. Women were still not well represented in workplace-based training, except for traditionally female occupations such as hairdressing. The increasing technical complexity of trades such as motor-vehicle maintenance meant that greater theoretical knowledge in maths and sciences was required, as well as practical training. And some employers still viewed workplace training as a cost rather than an investment in the future of their industry.