Opinion: why are fewer people starting apprenticeships?

Following on from National Apprenticeship Week, Chris Jones explores why fewer people are starting apprenticeships

09 April 2013

Chris Jones, CEO and Director General of City & Guilds, explores why there has been a decline in the number of people starting apprenticeships:

‘A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated National Apprenticeship Week and the FE sector united in showcasing the benefits of apprenticeships. Apprenticeships benefited from strong cross-party support, an impressive profile in national media and companies across the UK pledging apprenticeship places. It was great to see apprenticeships being recognised and celebrated as a viable option alongside university, and a key enabler to getting our economy back on track.

‘However on 27 March, the Statistical First Release from the Department for Business and Skills (BIS) documented a worrying trend in the uptake of apprenticeships. From August 2012 – January 2013, nearly 11,500 fewer people have started an apprenticeship compared to the same period last year. This represents a decrease of 4.5%. Amongst the 16-18 age group, the decline is 12%.

‘As we gear up for economic growth and focus on filling ‘skills gaps’ in our workforce, clearly this is cause for concern –especially with youth unemployment on the rise again, with nearly 1 million 18-24 year olds out of work. Apprenticeships have a higher profile than ever, so why are they declining? The answer I’m afraid is a complex picture.

‘We certainly should not be focusing on quantity of apprenticeships over quality, and we need to remember that there are simply less 16-18 year olds due to demographic trends. And obviously, the economy has been challenging for businesses of all sizes across the UK, making them less likely to invest in apprenticeships.

‘But, we all know high-quality apprenticeships equip people with the skills that employers are crying out for. The Government’s response to the Richard Review calls for employers to put recognised and meaningful industry standards at the heart of every apprenticeship. This is encouraging, but only goes some way towards addressing the broader problem of the drop in apprenticeship starts.’


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