Figures released this morning show just 239 loans for apprenticeships have been applied for  since the scheme began — 162 in September.

The figures are dramatically below government forecasts, in which around 25,000 applications for apprenticeship loans were expected this academic year (by July 31, 2014).

Provisional figures for the last academic year (ending July 31, 2013), before 24+ advanced learning loans were introduced, indicate there were 112,300 level three and above apprenticeship starts for those aged 25 and over.

A department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesperson told FE Week this morning: “We are closely monitoring the take up of these loans and will continue to do so. We recognise that under the loans system where we have had over 49,000 applications in total, the current figures for apprenticeships are low. However, apprentices do not typically begin their role with the academic year so applications could increase throughout the year.”

Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association and Employment and Learning providers said: “There are changes we could make to the system to improve the position but we need a more radical solution sooner rather than later to ensure the apprenticeship programme is not damaged further.”

David Hughes, chief executive of NIACE said: “We are extremely concerned that this radical funding change has resulted in a massive shift in delivery. This shows how price-sensitive learners and employers are and the impact that has on choices people make about learning.

“This week the Government announced ambitious plans for the future of Apprenticeships, but these figures show that action is needed now to rescue the programme for adults over the age of 24.”

Read more in the next edition of FE Week.