Covid generation: apprenticeships and grads continue to take a hammering

Barely a month after Boris Johnson promised an apprenticeship for any young person who wanted one, Department for Education  data shows the devastating effects of the pandemic.  The number of apprentice starts have already declined in recent months – between August 2019 and January this year, the number of new apprenticeships was 7.3 per cent lower than the same period a year earlier with 198,600 starts. However, between March 23 and the end of June, companies reported only 34,690 new apprentices, a decrease of 52.3 per cent on the same period in 2019, with less than 35 000 starts recorded – and an even greater fall in the number of vacancies.

Government relief schemes have not covered apprenticeship provision and therefore it is no surprise that the most significant declines have been in sectors most affected, where permanent staff have been extensively furloughed, with many workplaces shut completely. The figures show, for example, less than 300 starts in Leisure, Travel and Tourism (there were around 7000 last year) a 75% reduction in Retail and a two thirds reduction in Construction. The Covid period has also increased the proportion of Business and Administration apprenticeships (34%) at the expense of Engineering and Manufacturing (8%).

More concerning, less than 9% of starts during the Covid period have been by under 19-year olds compared with 65% by those over 25. On  a more positive note, the greatest number of apprenticeships are now at Advanced level and there were more Higher level starts (though some management trainees starting MBAs have been included in these) than  Intermediate  level – equivalent to GCSE – a standard most young people have already reached.

Meanwhile graduates also continue to take a hammering from Covid. The recruitment agency Adzuna (27/07) recording half the number of vacancies compared with the same time last year -with an average salary for new graduate jobs of only £21, 163 down from £24 000 at the start of the year, while the website AdvanceHE (15/07) reports falls of 27% in vacancies for ‘high skilled’ graduate jobs and 37% in the Associate Professional/Technician category.

As with other recessions, we can expect large increases in applications for teacher training and for relatively ‘safe’ public sector jobs like the Civil Service.  Though many might want to ‘ride out’ the current crisis by signing up for an (online?) Masters.

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