Apprenticeship numbers are falling not rising

 The Guardian  (01/12/14) has carried a story about apprenticeships going to workers over 25 rather than to young people and  claiming that 350 000 of the UK’s 851 000 apprentices are  25+   www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/30/hundreds-thousands-apprentices-in-uk-paid-little-2-73

 Although large numbers of  existing employees are still being reclassified as ‘apprentices’ this report is only partially correct. You get a more accurate indication of the age breakdown of apprentices by looking at the statistics for the number of apprenticeship starts rather than those for current participants. 

As our research shows, there is now a far greater proportion of young people starting apprenticeships, while the number of 25+’s starting has fallen from 230 000 to 157 000 over the year. The ‘blip’ in adult recruitment onto apprenticeships in recent years was partly to do with the transfer of Train to Gain funding, though (as our research also shows) there was also overt profiteering by training providers.  Having said that, the number of school leavers  beginning  apprenticeships isn’t rising and is still small compared to the number starting university –  there were less than 120 000 apprenticeship starts by under 19 year olds in total last year, whereas almost half a million school leavers transferred to HE.

Rather than increasing, as the newspaper report suggests, a consequence of a drop in adult numbers has been a  fall in overall apprenticeship starts – down from 500 000 last year  to 450 000.  While government  might still try and play a ‘numbers game,’ our research argues that on the contrary, apprenticeships are running out of steam, because employers don’t really need them. This will become more apparent when funding arrangements are transferred to individual employers as the Richard Review proposed and when they are asked to contribute more.

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