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Call to boost apprenticeships following Covid drop

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Apprenticeship starts across England have fallen by more than 20% during the pandemic, prompting calls to promote the vital route to employment for jobseekers.

The number of people beginning apprenticeships nationwide dropped from 393,380 in 2018-19 (Aug 18-Jul 19) to 268,700 in 2019-20. In the first two quarters of 2020-21 (Aug-Jan), apprenticeship starts stood at 161,900.

The information was gathered constituency by constituency from Department for Education statistics by Market Harborough-based tech firm Rubitek, which has developed software to make it easier for employers to take on apprentices.

Rubitek CEO Kerry Linley said thousands of firms are missing out on Government cash incentives to recruit apprentices – and individuals, particularly young people, are losing opportunities to progress in their careers.

She said: “Apprenticeships have changed massively. There’s a huge amount of opportunity available but people don’t necessarily know about it. I think there’s an education piece needed, and also we need to get rid of the stigma attached to apprenticeships for some people.

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“There’s no doubt that Covid has had an impact on apprenticeship starts. We formed our business in 2019 because we were shocked that a third of all apprenticeships started failed to result in completion. If we combine that with the drop in apprenticeship starts this past year, there has never been a more important time to drive apprenticeship recruitment and improve those outcomes.

“My advice to employers is that apprenticeships are a really viable option for recruitment, and I’m happy to talk to any employers for advice.”

Muhammad Musani, 19, is an apprentice at Rubitek. He said: “I chose apprenticeships because you are learning and being employed at the same time, so you are getting paid and not getting in debt afterwards, like a university degree. Personally, I like the hands-on experience rather than text books.

“My message to anyone out there considering an apprenticeship is go for it and don’t give up, you need to persevere. It’s about looking for the right apprenticeship for you and don’t get bogged down if you get rejected with your first few applications. It’s worth it in the end.”

Kerry is a STEM ambassador and helped to build the UK’s most successful shared apprenticeship scheme. This work features as a best practice case study in the Government’s Commission on Apprenticeships.

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