Just 24 apprentices have applied for 24+ Advanced Learning Loans since the scheme was launched prompting a sector head to call for “concerted action to ensure that adults are not missing out”.
Dr Fiona Aldridge, head of learning for work at the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, spoke out as the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) for the first time revealed apprenticeship uptake of the new loans system, launched on April 8. Courses funded by the loans start tomorrow.
“There needs to be concerted action to ensure that adults are not missing out on opportunities, particularly where advanced and higher-level apprenticeships are concerned,” said Dr Aldridge.
“The number of applications for these remains extremely low.”
She added: “Having a skilled workforce that can compete in the global market is essential for a substantial and sustained economic recovery and people of all ages and stages of their careers need access to high-quality opportunities to improve those skills.”
FE Week understands that the government initially expected around 27,000 (33 per cent) of the predicted 80,000 loans applicants for 2013/14 to be from apprentices.
However, according to the monthly update from BIS, of the 19,096 loans applications received by July 31, just 24 (0.1 per cent) were from apprentices.
A BIS spokesperson said: “We are closely monitoring application data, including applications for apprenticeships and are working with the National Apprenticeship Service and those sectors with significant volumes of 24+ advanced and higher level apprenticeships to ensure that employers and employees understand the loans that are available.
“However, we are still at a very early stage for apprenticeship applications and would expect recruitment to happen throughout the year, it is therefore too early to say what the level of applications from apprenticeships will be.”
According to the figures, just 12 higher apprenticeship loans applications were received by the Student Loans Company while a further dozen were received for advanced apprenticeship loans since April. The majority applied last month with only three apprentices registering interest before July 1— so few that figures were revealed only this month.
Overall, of the 19,096 loans applications received, which includes A levels, QAA Access to HE and QCF certificates and diplomas, 14,383 have been processed. Seventy eight per cent of applicants were female.
The majority of all applicants — 8,420 —were aged 24 to 30. Meanwhile, 6,759 were aged 31 to 40 and 3,085 were aged 41 to 50. Just 832 applicants were from applicants aged over 50.
In May, FE Week reported how three weeks into the scheme just 68 men and 270 women had requested a loan.
At the time Martin Doel, Association of Colleges’ chief executive, said deterrents included “aversion to debt” among mature students, and the “absence of a national marketing drive” for the loans.
BIS set up a £6.5m development fund to help providers with loans facilities to market the new loans.