All-age apprentice starts down for second consecutive year but improvement for 16 to 18

The number of new apprentices in 2013/14 was down by nearly 70,000 on the previous year — the second consecutive annual fall, according to official figures out this morning.

All-age apprenticeship starts were at 440,400 last academic year, down 13.7 per cent, having been at 510,200 the previous year, and 520,600 in 2011/12.

The 2012/13 fall in all-age apprenticeship starts was the first since 2005/06 when the figure of 175,000 was down 7.5 per cent from the previous year.

Within the fall in the 2013/14 figures, were decreases from 165,400 to 159,100 (-3.8 per cent) for the 19 to 24 age group and 230,300 to 161,600 (-29.8 per cent) among those aged 25+.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said: “The introduction of the 24+ Advanced Learning Loans impacted on the number of adult apprenticeship starts recently — but as soon as it became clear that loans were not the preferred route for employers or prospective apprentices we decided to remove apprenticeships from the loans programme. As such we look forward to seeing this trend reverse in future and a boost to the number of adult apprentices.

“We are reforming the funding of all apprenticeships to put employers in the driving seat and ensure apprenticeships deliver the skills businesses need to grow and compete. More than 1,000 employers are now involved in designing high quality apprenticeships as part of the successful trailblazers initiative.”

However, one positive note in the apprenticeship figures was that 16 to 18 starts were continuing to recover and were up on 2012/13, from 114,500 to 119,800 (4.6 per cent).

It was the first annual increase for the age group in two years, with the 2010/11 number of 131,700 having been 12.8 per cent up on the previous year.

The final (rather than provisional) figures were in today’s Statistical First Release, where the number of traineeship starts for 2013/14 was also revealed to have been 10,400.

“Traineeships are off to a strong start, with the first year of the programme seeing more than 10,000 young people taking the opportunity to gain the skills and work experience that will put them on track for a rewarding career,” said the BIS spokesperson.

“Leading employers such as Virgin Media, Barclays and the BBC have committed to create thousands more traineeship opportunities over the coming years and, following a public consultation, we are now broadening the learner eligibility for the programme from January so that even more young people can benefit.”

For analysis of the figures, read edition 120 of FE Week, dated Monday, December 1.