Every month, more than 23,000 apprenticeship vacancies are advertised, with 2016-2017 seeing a record high in apprenticeship participation.

The academic year saw a sign-up growth of 14.5% compared to the previous year, and a total of 491,300 apprenticeships in the year.

Apprenticeship programmes have built a great reputation not only with employers, but the apprentices themselves; 97% of employers noted their satisfaction with the programme, and 89% of apprentices agreed.

It's great to hear such success, but is it projected to continue? As DfE release the latest Apprenticeship and levy statistics, we’re joined by personalised badges supplier, Badgemaster, to investigate further.

Who’s signing up?

It's a common misconception that apprenticeships are for school leavers — in 2016-2017, only 24.6% of the 491,300 apprentice sign-ups were by people 19 years old or younger. However, in the same academic year, people aged 25 and over dominated apprenticeships with 46% of starts accounted by the 25 and over population. A figure that isn’t surprising when statistics show that the number of participants in higher or degree apprenticeships have increased significantly, from 740 to 3,880 — and in September 2017, there were 39,000 commitments to apprentices ages 25 and over. The number of starts for people ages 19 to 24 years old, although still higher than under 19s, was the lowest since 2009/10 at just 29%.

For the current academic year, the amount of apprenticeship starts seemed to have taken a drop, but the age groups within those sign-ups has changed from the previous academic year. So far, under 19s have dominated apprenticeship programmes, with 41% of all apprenticeship starts in the first quarter of 2017/18 started by under 19s. This is a normal trend to be noted, as the higher percentage accounts for young school leavers moving onto further education from school. Starts by those over the age of 15 dropped to just 29%.

Which sectors are popular?

By looking at which apprenticeships began in a year, we can see which sectors are the most popular choices. Indeed, 2016-2017 saw four sectors dominate 86% of apprenticeship starts. According to a briefing paper from the House of Commons Library, the Health, Public Services and Care, and the Business Administration and Law sectors hold the joint top spot for the most sign ups — with Business Administration and Law losing single occupancy of the top spot for the first time following 7,000 more starts in the Health, Public Services and Care sector from 2015/16. Both sectors experienced 138,000 starts in 2016/17. In second place, Retail and Commercial Enterprise had 75,000 starts and in fourth, Engineering and Manufacturing experienced 74,000 starts.

Outside of the top 4, there are a whole host of options for would-be apprentices. Essentially, there is something for everyone. From Construction, Planning and the Built Environment to ICT, Leisure Travel and Tourism, and Education and Training.

How apprentices feel

Many apprentices report positively to their programme of choice, with the general consensus being that the programme had helped them hone their skills. Furthermore, it offers both young and old to earn a wage whilst learning on the job. According to the Education & Skills Funding Agency, 97% of apprentices said their ability to do their job had improved, whilst a further 92% said their career prospects had improved with more than 90% of apprentices currenting going into work or further training following their programme.

912,200 apprentices were active in their course in the 2016-2017 academic year, which is up 12,800 on the year prior. Figures from the previous academic year revealed that 271,700 people successfully completed an apprenticeship in 2015/16, up 10,800 on the previous year — suggesting that achievement and completion figures could continue to rise as participation rate increase, too.

How employers feel

Skilled workers are always in demand in the UK. Apprenticeship programmes give companies an opportunity to train staff whilst on the job, but usually at a fraction of cost of a fully qualified, full-time employee. And it is not just money-saving benefits that keep employers happy.

Three quarters of employers think apprentices have helped improve their service and product, and 76% reckon that apprenticeship schemes have improved productivity. 87% feel satisfied with the programme as a whole. Furthermore, because of the success of the programmes, more than 76% of employers offer their apprentices a full-time job following the programme’s completion — only 24% said they didn’t offer further full-time work.

Apprentices are reaping the rewards too, as 60% of employers said they would offer a salary between £14,000 and £18,000 a year to a former apprentice, and 87% reckoned apprenticeships allow people to gain an advantage in the job market.

Do you think apprenticeship programmes are beneficial? Are those figures enough to convince you that apprenticeships deliver continued success for both the apprentice and employer? With so many higher education routes to choose from, it is often difficult for people to choose which road to take. Apprenticeships offer benefits for both parties, with learning on the job a preferred method amongst many industry professionals. Does your company welcome apprentices? If not, maybe it is time to consider the successful education programme.

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