From education to employment

Greater Manchester sees older apprentice surge

Nearly half of Greater Manchester’s Apprenticeships have been taken by adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s rather than young people looking for a way into work, according to a local think tank.

Many of the adults are likely to already be employed, and strategy advisers at New Economy are calling for more focus on ‘new recruits’ as opposed to ‘converting’ an existing employee.

Its figures show the number of apprentices over the age of 25 in the city jumped by 446% to 13,485 in 2012/13, compared with 2,472 in 2008/9.

Although the number of apprentices has risen overall, the think tank highlighted concerns about the value of some of the programmes, citing examples of ‘car valet’ and ‘chip shop worker’ Apprenticeships.

It said the average weekly wage for apprentices in Greater Manchester is also about £50 lower than the national average at £120.78 a week.

James Farr, director of skills and employment at New Economy, said: “A good quality Apprenticeship is a critical route into well-paying work and will be a better choice than going to university for some ambitious young people. But the challenge for the city region in the next few years will be to expand the numbers of good quality Apprenticeships, particularly at advanced and higher levels.

“Apprenticeships are still often thought of as being about traditional manual roles. Our report shows how out of date this perception is. Areas such as engineering and construction are still very important, but most apprenticeships have taken on the characteristics of the service-oriented sectors that provide most jobs in Greater Manchester. What is more, the overwhelming majority of apprentices are women.

“We are keen to see more businesses recruiting new young employees via apprenticeships. Although we do not believe wage levels put many people off from applying, we want to make it easier by reducing living costs for apprentices.”

The group’s ‘Explaining patterns in apprenticeships’ report can be found here.

Natalie Thornhill

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