A record 143,400 apprentices completed their programmes in the 2008/09 academic year, according to figures released today by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
The 27.4 per cent increase on the last academic year means the Government has met its apprenticeship completion targets two years early.
“The figures speak for themselves: they show that apprenticeships today are rightly regarded as an excellent way to train and build the nation’s skills,” says Apprenticeship Minister Kevin Brennan.
“As we rebuild growth, it’s essential that we continue to invest in people and their skills, especially in industries key to our future economic success.
“This Government has rescued and rebuilt apprenticeships from a low base in 1997, making significant investments and trebling apprenticeship numbers in order to provide opportunities for people to train for the jobs of the future. We know that business values the apprenticeship highly because this training is providing the skilled workers British businesses need for the future and Government remains committed to making it easier for businesses to offer them.”
The overall success rate for apprenticeships was also high at 70.9 per cent, compared with 65 per cent last academic year, and the 37 per cent pass rate in 2004/05.
Nigel Fletcher, education and skills adviser for EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, says the significant increase in apprenticeship completions is an “encouraging sign”, but warns “the headline growth in new apprentices hides the fact that the number starting in the last quarter is lower than last year”.
Over the last 12 months, the number of 16 to 18 year olds starting apprenticeships plummeted by 7.5 per cent, while the number of 19 to 24 year olds starting apprenticeships also dropped by 5.9 per cent over the same period.
Mr Fletcher adds: “Problems in meeting demand will exist as long as employers face uncertainty over funding levels. With skills so vital to the economy, now is not the time to turn off the tap.”
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) believes these figures raise serious concerns about the Government’s reliance on the apprenticeship system to help young people during the recession.
Tom Richmond, CIPD’s skills adviser, says: “These apprenticeship figures strongly suggest that the Government’s policy of expanding apprenticeships to tackle youth unemployment is faltering. After the bitterly disappointing rise in youth unemployment announced just yesterday, this week has delivered a ‘double dose’ of bad news for the people hit worst by the recession.
“While we applaud the Government’s broad commitment to supporting young people in these difficult times, it is clear that apprenticeships alone are not capable of solving the problems faced by school, college and university leavers. The Government’s announcement earlier this week that a subsidy of £2,500 will be offered to firms for taking on young apprentices fails to address these concerns, especially as it will only be given to 5,000 companies.”
(Pictured: Apprenticeship Minister Kevin Brennan)