From education to employment

GCSE results: School leavers are biggest losers from crash in apprenticeship opportunities, so the government must respond

Mark Dawe, CEO, The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP)

School leavers losing out on slump in apprenticeship opportunities.

Young people wanting to start earning while learning in an apprenticeship rather than stay on to do A levels may have to think again after receiving their GCSE results.

The latest official monthly data shows that apprenticeship opportunities for 16 to 18 year olds are down 41% compared with pre-levy provision while starts at the intermediate (starter) level have fallen by 56%.

The spread of apprenticeship opportunities left across the country has also become very uneven because most of the large levy-paying employers who now account for the majority of them are located in London and the south east or in larger cities elsewhere.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), whose members train 3 out of every 4 apprentices in England, says that the mishandling of the apprenticeship levy reforms is causing the sharp fall in numbers and is seriously undermining the government’s social mobility credentials.  Furthermore it is not helping the recruitment and training strategies of important sectors such as hospitality and social care which are most affected by Brexit.

AELP is calling on the government to urgently review its levy reforms to restore the number of apprenticeships which were previously being offered by small and medium sized businesses across all areas of the country.  It also wants ministers to bring back the incentives that encouraged firms to recruit young apprentices, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

MarkDawe 100x100AELP CEO Mark Dawe said:

‘Downing Street may have consigned the 3 million target to the scrap heap, but apprenticeship opportunities aren’t even at previous levels.  This is tragic when so much effort is being poured into persuading teachers and parents that their children can be making a very sensible choice when opting for an apprenticeship.

‘Ministers are now talking much more about quality than quantity but even on this, they should be very careful.  If certain funding rates under review are cut without recognition of the real costs involved, employers and providers will not be able to deliver good quality training and this would be extremely damaging to the reputation of apprenticeships.’    

On 22 August, the BBC Today Programme ran a package on apprenticeships and as part of this, had an interview with Robert Halfon, Chair of the Education Select Committee. During this interview, Mr Halfon said the number of starts are declining, particularly in 19-24 age bracket. 

Anne milton100x100Minister for Apprenticeship and Skills Anne Milton said:

“In 2015 we set an ambitious goal of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020, and that remains our ambition. But whilst we do want to see an increasing number of apprentice starts, we will not sacrifice quality over quantity.

“Our reforms to the apprenticeship system are about creating more opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to get the skills they need to succeed, but they are also about making sure those opportunities are high-quality.

“Things are moving in the right direction with the number of people starting on our new, higher-quality apprenticeships rising significantly, and we will continue to work with industry to drive up numbers.”

The largest drop in apprenticeship starts in DfE’s most recently-published figures (compared to those a year earlier) was in the 25+ age group.

Robert Halfon 100x100In response to DfE’s comments, Mr. Halfon explained:

“I was discussing the apprentice starts from 19 to 24 which according to the House of Commons Library fell to its lowest level since 2010. I said “the number of starts are declining , particularly in the 19 to 24 age bracket’.

“I was not discussing the apprenticeship uptake of 15 to 25 year olds over the past year.”

About The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP): Nationally representing the interests of over 960 organisations delivering vocational learning and employability support for 380,000 employers.  Our training provider members deliver the large majority of Apprenticeships, Traineeships and programmes for the unemployed.  AELP full membership is open to all independent training providers, employer providers, universities, local authorities, FE colleges, awarding bodies and schools engaged in skills and employment.

Related Articles