The Forum of Private Business has warned a group of MPs that apprenticeships are facing an “identity crisis”, with business owners in certain sectors concerned that shorter schemes do not provide the same value as longer courses.

The Forum’s Senior Policy Adviser Alex Jackman was giving evidence to the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) select committee’s inquiry into apprenticeships in the House of Commons.

Mr Jackman told MPs that shorter apprenticeships have faced criticism from UK business owners, particularly those in traditional industries such as manufacturing and engineering, who argue they do not provide the same value as the longer schemes they run “ despite evidence of their popularity among more service-orientated sectors including retail.

“At a general level we have spent decades devaluing GCSEs, A-levels and degrees by making them easier to pass. It is just not acceptable to devalue apprenticeships in the same way,” he said.

“Apprenticeships are facing an identity crisis over how entrepreneurs view shorter courses. Business owners in more traditional industries often doubt their value relative to the longer schemes they run, and even question whether they should be branded as apprenticeships at all, but others – in retail, for example – see many benefits.

“It is of course important that shorter apprenticeships are more than simply glorified training schemes, hitting businesses in the pocket for little in return, and we should guard against diluting courses so they fall below industry standards, but, providing these schemes are accredited, shown to address real skills needs and are well regarded, even as “entry level” apprenticeships, they should rightly be valued, protected and promoted.

“However, we do need more awareness of the differences between intense, four-year apprenticeships and shorter schemes, greater clarity about their applicability to businesses in different industries and more centralised information about where to source information, funding and courses.”

In its submission to the official inquiry the Forum argued that central government could be more effective in overcoming the lack of clarity over information about apprenticeships as a result of the numerous routes through which to seek advice.