Apprenticeship statistics – the good and the bad.

This week has been National Apprenticeship Week, with young people appearing on national media to promote the schemes.  There are clearly some very good ones. But January also saw  the release of new data on apprenticeship starts and apprentice profiles providing a very mixed picture.

The  good

  • After a difficult period since the introduction of the compulsory employers levy, the numbers starting apprenticeships have picked up.  Though at just under 400,000 for the academic year 2018/19 , this is still below the 2011/12 high point of 520 000.
  • The proportion of  Higher Level enrolments continues to increase. – representing one in five for 2018/19 and nearly one in four for the first quarter of 2019/20.  Starts at Level 6 (a post-grad equivalent) made up 11% of all new starts, an increase of 50% on a year ago.
  •  Only about a third of starts are at Intermediate Level. ( Equal to GCSE standard – a level  that most young people have already reached)   compared to two-thirds for 2011/12. Intermediate apprenticeships  last only a few months,  with minimal off the job training.
  • Three quarters of starts are now based on the new apprenticeship standards  -generally, considered to be much better.
  • Starts by women increased by more than double those by men –  in total, 50.1% of starts are by women.

 The bad

  • Though over 4.2 million apprenticeships have been established since 2010/1,  it’s doubtful if David Cameron’s original promise of another 3 million between 2015 and 2020 will be met.
  • Though never officially enshrined, the underlying assumption has always been that apprenticeship opportunities should be aimed at young people – and as alternatives to university. The proportion of starts by young people is falling again.  Since apprenticeships have been ‘reinvented’, the over 25’s have benefited most. But after recent falls, starts by this group is  back up to 45%. Under 19 starts fell by 13.% in 2018/19 and 20% for those 19-24. Only one in four starts were by those under 19 (and only one in twelve starts by 17 year olds).
  • Changes to the funding process mean it’s much easier for employers to divert resources into the training/retraining of existing  employers and to reclassify existing management trainees on  post-graduate schemes as ‘apprentices’.
  • The overwhelming majority of new apprentices (86%) are white – though the proportion of BAME starts has increased to 12.3% during 2018/19.
  • London and the South East continue to see the largest increase  – with the North West (no overall increase) and the North East amongst the lowest.

Finally the pattern of starts in various economic sectors continues to reflect the changing nature of the UK economy. Business Administration and Law represent 30% of all starts . Health, Public Services and Care  25% while Engineering and Manufacturing just 15% – a slight fall from the previous year. Retail and Commercial Enterprise had the largest fall. (In 2011/12 21% of starts were in this sector. This is now down to 13%.) Meanwhile in the construction sector, reported to be suffering a big skills shortage, there were just over 20 000 starts, representing only about  5% of the total.

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