From education to employment

Adult apprenticeships prove to be good value for money

The National Audit Office published its report into adult apprenticeships yesterday, highlighting rapid expansion in adult apprenticeships over the last year.


With a 140% increase in the number of apprenticeships starting between 2006/2007 and 2010/2011, there was an increase of 151,500 new adult apprenticeships in 2010/11.


The report summarised that overall, apprenticeships for adults are proving to offer a good return for the public money spent on them.


Assuming training would not have occurred without public support, the report estimated an economic return of £21 for every £1 of public funding spent on advanced level apprenticeships and a £16 return on those at intermediate level.

The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) welcomed the report. Chief executive David Hughes said: “The Government has been ambitious with this apprenticeship programme and the National Audit Office report illustrates that such ambition is well-placed.”


Mr Hughes said that while the return on the Government’s investment was good, there is also significant return for both the employer and the apprentice, such as providing the apprentice with a fresh start and boosting their confidence both at work, home and within the community.


Expansion in apprenticeships has occurred across all age groups but has been most significant among employees aged 25 and over.


The expansion comes after the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills removed restrictions limiting public funding to those aged under 25 in 2003; in order to expand and meet the skills needs of older workers.


Despite successful growth of apprenticeships during a stagnant time for employment, the report did warn that rapid expansion does also present risks that need to be managed.


Mr Hughes said: “We need to strike a balance between the returns for Government, employers and individuals – these should direct the targeting of provision and we should not take a simplistic sectoral approach based on economic returns alone.”


Chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency Geoff Russell acknowledged the report’s appreciation of the steps the Agency has taken to increase the rigour and scrutiny of its procurement, contracting and performance management of providers.


He said: “The Agency will continue to work with colleagues across the sector to ensure that Apprenticeships across England are delivered to the standards required by employers, learners and the National Apprenticeship Service.”

Linsey Humphries

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