New report defines world-class apprenticeships as those rooted in sector skills, knowledge and progression to employment

May 23, 2016

Analysis of leading countries points to defining features of world-class apprenticeships

A new report is released today from the University of Derby, supported by Pearson, which looks at some of the world's most heralded apprenticeship systems, and draws conclusions for the system in the UK, as the government implements its policy ambition of creating 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 and the introduction of the new Apprenticeship Levy.

The report’s main author, Dr Ruth Mieschbuehler, interviewed some of the world’s leading apprenticeship reformers in countries such as Germany, Denmark, Australia and the Netherlands and identified the following characteristics as particularly important:

  • extended apprenticeships of between three to four years;
  • broad and in-depth scientific and industrial skills and knowledge;
  • the presence of a ‘master’ in the company to train an apprentice;
  • high-quality knowledge-based education and training;
  • recognition through an occupational title on completion of the training;
  • apprentices to acquire all the skills and knowledge necessary to work effectively in an occupation;
  • apprentices to become skilled workers in an occupational area with a critical and creative approach; and
  • progression routes into employment as well as into further education and training.

Commenting on the report, Ruth Mieschbuehler said:

"This is the first time ever that world-class apprenticeship standards have been identified drawing on interviews with some of the world's leading apprenticeship reformers. The indicators can be used to create criteria against which all apprenticeship provision can be benchmarked and the recommendations will point towards a higher quality offering for apprentices and drive forward world-class apprenticeship standards in England.”

Commenting, Rod Bristow, President of Pearson in the UK said:

“The government's 3 million target and levy could herald a big step forward in apprenticeships in this country, but ultimately the quality must be there. While there is no 'off-the-shelf' model for reform that can be dropped on to the UK economy, there are many features of world-class apprenticeships that we can embed into apprenticeships. We are grateful to the authors for their work, and we are busily working through how we can reflect the recommendations in our own work with employers and apprentices.

“In addition to supporting this research Pearson has also convened a panel of world-leading education experts to advise us on the development of all our new qualifications. On apprenticeships the advice of the panel is clear: qualifications have a major role in supporting learner mobility and Pearson will focus work on those trailblazers including a qualification in their apprenticeship programme.”
Commenting, Education Select Committee member, Lucy Frazer QC MP, said:

“The Government’s commitment to delivering 3 million apprentices by 2020 is laudable, but it is vital that we ensure that these are high quality opportunities. It is important to analyse and assess what is a high quality apprenticeship and I am delighted that this report will help to inform that debate”

Commenting, Jason Holts CBE, the Government's Small Business Apprenticeship Ambassador, said:

"While the needs of employers of all sizes may be different, it is crucial that apprentices themselves are put at the heart of our system. The employers who run the best apprenticeships understand this intuitively, and they are the ones who uphold the principles that run through in this report - hands-on experience, deep learning and the opportunity to get a good job at the end."


Editor’s notes

  1. An embargoed copy of the report is available here (4.5 MB).
  2. The high-performing jurisdictions identified were as follows: Australia, Denmark, England, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, South Korea.
  3. The report is launched at a policy breakfast at Pearson's HQ on 80 Strand at 8.30am on Monday 23 May.

Speakers at the breakfast include:

  • Ruth Mieschbuehler
  • Rod Bristow, Pearson
  • Lucy Frazer QC MP, Education Select Committee
  • Pippa Morgan, CBI
  • Hilary Steedman, LSE
  • Adam Marshall, BCC
  • Nathan Pearson-Smith, former apprentice

If you are interested in attending, or speaking to the report authors, please contact Tom Philpott on