Figures released by the Skills Funding Agency at the end of June, show just 375 000 apprenticeship starts for the 9 months between August 2014 and April 2015. Only 100 000 of the new starts are by young people under 19 and another 125 000 by those aged 19-24. In otherwords, 4 out of 10 starts are by those over 25, most of whom will be existing employees.
6 out of 10 starts are at Intermediate (GCSE) Level – with just 13,200 at Higher Level. The figures also show more starts by women (52%) than men. This reflects the large number in Business, Administration and Law (approaching 1 in 3 of all starts) and particularly in Health and Care (1 in 4 ). Just over 1 in 7 starts have been in Manufacturing and Engineering and only 1 in 20 in Construction.
Despite a relatively high media profile, apprenticeships are not expanding in the way they are being promoted. On the contrary, start figures are levelling off. Unless there’s a dramatic change in direction the new government will struggle to get anywhere near its election promise of creating another 3 million for young people during this Parliament.
The statistics also show the UK workforce continues to be more highly qualified than ever, with 81% of workers having reached level 2, 62.6% to Level 3 and 41.0% to at least Level 4 (equivalent to first year degree). With 80% of the new jobs being created said to be ‘low skilled’ , despite what government leaders might say, standards in education and training remain well ahead.