From education to employment

Apprenticeships in England by industry characteristics 2019 to 2020

Experimental statistics on apprenticeship starts, between 2012 to 2013 and 2019 to 2020 academic years, by employer size, sector and region.

The Department for Education’s Individualised Learner Record (ILR), Apprenticeship Service and the Office for National Statistics Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR) have been matched together to allow information about apprentices to be linked to business information relating to the apprentice’s employer, covering: 

  • Learner characteristics: age, gender, whether they live in a relatively deprived area (based on the Index of Multiple Deprivation)
  • Apprenticeship information: level, standard/framework, subject studied, whether they were supported by levy funds from an Apprenticeship Service Account (ASA) and geography of the workplace of the apprenticeship (region, local authority and parliamentary constituency),
  • Employer enterprise characteristics: industry sector (broad and 2 digit Standard Industrial Classification 2007), size band (number of employees) and legal status.

This edition contains new data linking apprenticeship starts in 2019/20 from the ILR to enterprises in the IDBR from December 2020. The resulting linked education and business (ILR-IDBR) dataset covers eight academic years between 2012/13 and 2019/20 and is used here to produce:

  1. Estimates for volumes of apprenticeship starts by employer enterprise characteristics,
  2. An analysis of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on apprenticeship starts in 2019/20, by industry sector,
  3. Estimates of the volume of enterprises with apprenticeship starts, by enterprise characteristics,
  4. For the first time, an analysis of retention and frequency of engagement of enterprises with apprenticeship starts, between 2012/13 and 2019/20.

In 2019/20 there were 322,500 apprenticeship starts in England, of which 93% (301,410) were matched to an employer in the IDBR database. These matched apprenticeship starts took place within 66,900 unique enterprises in England. The match rate has steadily increased since the first match in 2012/13 (when it was 88%).

The statistics presented here relate to matched apprenticeship starts only, and so are different from the official figures published in the DfE Apprenticeships and Traineeships National Statistics.

More information on the matching approach used can be found in the accompanying methodology note. 

Industry characteristics

The use of the term ‘enterprise’ in this publication refers to an enterprise as defined in the ONS IDBR as ‘a business under autonomous and single control, usually producing a single set of accounts’. The enterprise size, however, refers to either the number of employees in the enterprise, or in the enterprise group to which the enterprise belongs – where applicable (an enterprise group consists of several enterprises under common ownership). All other characteristics are those belonging to the enterprise wherever possible. The geographical information refers to the workplace of the apprenticeship except for Ministry of Defence apprenticeships, where the training provider’s location is used. 

Work will continue to improve the statistics as knowledge of the underlying data source develops. 

ONS have supplied the Inter-departmental Business Register data used in this publication, but they bear no responsibility for the further analysis or interpretation of that data contained here. 

Policy context.

An apprenticeship is a job with training. Through their apprenticeship, apprentices will gain the technical knowledge, practical experience and wider skills and behaviours they need for their immediate job and future career. The apprentice gains this through formal off-the-job training and the opportunity to practise these new skills in a real work environment.

The UK-wide apprenticeship levy came into force on 6 April 2017 requiring all UK public and private sector employers with an annual pay bill of £3 million or more to invest in apprenticeship training. As of May 2017, reforms have been made to how apprenticeship funding works, including the introduction of the apprenticeship levy and apprenticeship service. The profile of apprenticeship starts changed significantly since the introduction of the levy which, along with the introduction of apprenticeship standards (that are replacing frameworks), has impacted on the number and nature of apprenticeship starts. 

In addition, the 2019/20 data covers a period affected by varying COVID-19 restrictions, which will have impacted on apprenticeship learning and also provider reporting behaviour via the Individualised Learner Record. Therefore, extra care should be taken in comparing and interpreting data presented in this release.

Headline facts and figures – 2019/20

  • In 2019/20, the number of matched apprenticeship starts fell in every enterprise size band compared to 2018/19. Small enterprises (those with fewer than 50 employees) saw the largest decrease in matched starts of 19%, around 18,600.
  • Since the introduction of the levy in 2016/17, small and medium sized enterprises have seen falls in the number of apprenticeship starts (down by 51% and 54% respectively), whilst large enterprises saw a smaller decrease of 11%.
  • Apprenticeship starts in sectors identified as ‘shutdown’ during the COVID-19 lockdown fell by 70% between 23 March – 31 July 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. Meanwhile, starts in other sectors fell by 40%.
  • Since 2018/19, the number of unique enterprises with at least one matched apprenticeship start fell by 16% (about 12,600) to 66,900 in 2019/20. The number of small enterprises with apprenticeship starts has fallen significantly from a peak of around 83,000 in 2015/16, down to 47,600 (a fall of 43%) by 2019/20.
  • Large enterprises with apprenticeship starts are more likely to continue to have starts the following year (74%), than medium (55%) or small enterprises (33%). Industry sectors characterised by large public sector enterprises (such as ‘Public Administration’, ‘Education’ and ‘Human health and social work’) have the highest retention rates.


Apprenticeships in England by industry characteristics 2019 to 2020


This release presents statistics on apprenticeship starts by their employer enterprise characteristics.

Data from the Individualised Learner Record (ILR), Apprenticeship Service and Office for National Statistics Inter-departmental Business Register (IDBR) have been matched.

This allows information about apprentices to be linked to information about their employers, covering:

  • learner characteristics including age and gender
  • apprenticeship information including level, standard or framework, subject studied, geography of workplace and whether they were supported by levy funds from an Apprenticeship Service Account (ASA)
  • employer enterprise characteristics including industry sector, size band and legal status

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