The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has welcomed the news that the number of young people to successfully complete their Apprenticeships has risen by 29 % this year.

Figures in from Work Based Learning Providers and Colleges have confirmed that during the academic year of 2004 / 2005, some 67,000 learners achieved their Apprenticeship Framework Certificate. This marks an increase of some 15,000 on the preceding year. In addition, a record number of young people (those aged 16 "“ 21) have started their Apprenticeship programme in this period. The 176,900 new Apprentices beats the Public Service Agreement (PSA) target of 28 % (176,500).

Further Statistics

The exact breakdown of participation was as follows; 17 % started a Programme Led Pathway, 65 % started on an Apprenticeship (equivalent to GCSE level, incorporating a NVQ up to Level 2, with key skills and in some cases a technical certificate) and 18 % began an Advanced Apprenticeship (which is equivalent to an A-level, incorporating a NVQ up to Level 3, key skills and a technical certificate). At present there are 255,500 young people aged 16-24 undertaking an Apprenticeship programme.

The progress in Apprenticeship development and the enhancement of the programme has been remarkable. In 2001/02, only 137,023 young people started Apprenticeships. The LSC was then set the target of increasing the level of participation. This meant that, by 2005, a minimum of 28% of young people would have to start a Modern Apprenticeship by the age of 22; or roughly 175,000 young people.

On to Employment?

The number of Apprentices is not the only good news, as some 43,000 of apprentices were also recruited upon the completion of their course. These included those over the age of 21 or those starting on an Advanced Apprenticeship. Of those leaving the Apprenticeship Programme, some 40% of learners achieved an Apprenticeship framework level with an additional 20,000 gaining a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ).

Completion rates are indeed higher than ever. Provisional data indicates that more apprentices than ever are completing the entire Apprenticeship programme - 39% of all leavers completed the course this year as compared with 31% in 2003/04. Furthermore, 51% of all leavers gain at least an NVQ qualification. This success is expected to continue to improve in 2005 / 2006, and beyond. In 2002 / 2003, 43,149 young people completed their Apprenticeships. The LSC is seeking to have a completion rate increased by 75% to 75,511 young people completing their Apprenticeships by 2007 / 2008.

Global Market

The movement of Apprentices into the workforce will be especially well received now, at a time when the Prime Minister Tony Blair MP and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown MP have both cited the importance of developing the skills level of the nation to meet the economic and industrial competition of global partners. Many of these have so "“ called "knowledge rich" economies, which have left Britain facing a gap in skills to fill in comparison.

On the 10th of May 2004, Gordon Brown MP and the then Secretary of State for Education Charles Clarke MP (now Home Office Minister) announced the introduction of Young Apprenticeships for students aged 14-16 and Adult Apprenticeships for those people aged 25 and over. Both of these programmes currently have pilots running to determine the best means for implementing them without disturbing the current rising trend.

The battle for skills, it seems, is well and truly joined.

Jethro Marsh

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