Adult apprenticeships triple as youth unemployment soars

New adult apprenticeships have hit a record high, adding to fears that the government skills drive is struggling to combat youth unemployment.

The number of new apprentices aged 25 and above rose by more than 250 per cent to 175,500 in 2010/11, making up more than a third of total starts.

The total number of new apprenticeships, published by the Data Service in the Statistical First Release (SFR), hit 442,700, up from 279,700 the previous year.

Meanwhile the number of new apprentices aged below 19 was up to 128,300, a 10 per cent increase on the previous 12 months.

Graham Hoyle, Chief Executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), said he wasn’t surprised by the “plateauing” of apprentices aged 16 to 18: “We’re talking about job creation and we’re talking about the economy.

“For new apprenticeships, or even the conversion of apprenticeships, it means that young people have to have gone into a job and been converted.

“We’re in a position now where jobs are simply not being created. So demographically, it’s bound to happen.”

The SFR found that there was similar movement in the number of new apprentices aged between 19 and 24, rising by almost 20 per cent to 138,900.

Professor Ewart Keep, from Cardiff University, said that the figures show a dilution in the apprenticeship brand.

“Post-25 age apprenticeships, in almost every other country, would be regarded as adult training/re-training, not as apprenticeships, as this term/form of training is restricted to initial Vocational Education Training,” Mr Keep said.

“As a means of chasing government targets for expansion of apprenticeships, 25+ provision makes perfect sense.  In every other respect it is probably not a good idea and dilutes an already ‘confused’ apprenticeship brand/offer.”

The government continues to push the growth in apprenticeships as a solution to Britain’s unemployment problem.

John Hayes, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, highlighted the growth in Level 3 starts during a session of questioning with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills at the House of Commons:

Mr Hayes said: “We are promoting manufacturing and skills with success.

“Provisional figures show substantial growth, with 47,020 apprenticeship programme starts in engineering and manufacturing technologies in 2010 alone. That’s an increase of 20%.”

The rise in apprentices within the construction and manufacturing sector has also been praised by Business Secretary Vince Cable.

Mr Cable said: “I’m particularly pleased that vital sectors like construction, manufacturing and engineering are continuing to back apprenticeships, despite tough economic times.”

The latest SFR provides provisional apprenticeship data for the 2010/11 academic year, and will be finalised in the SFR due in January 2012.

Related articles in FE Week (incl. info graphic ~ 11mb):

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External related links:

Guardian: Jobs rebranded as apprenticeships, government report warns

Guardian: Apprenticeship figures are not what they seem

Telegraph: Apprenticeships double but concerns over ‘chasing targets’

Mail on Sunday: The great apprentice racket: Some jobs fall short of skills as firms collect millions

Guardian: Big increase in apprenticeships due to ‘striking rise’ in trainees over 25

BBC Radio 4 In Business programme on supermarket apprentices