Six months after the Conservatives committed to cutting travel costs for apprentices in their election manifesto, there is no evidence the policy is near to being implemented.
It was one of the major FE policies included in the Conservative manifesto in May, when the party pledged to “introduce significantly discounted bus and train travel for apprentices” in an attempt to make the qualifications more attractive to people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
But even though the Tories are still in government, FE Week has found no evidence to show the commitment is being implemented.
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport would only admit that it had started “exploring options” for discounted travel for apprentices.
It is a huge problem when an apprentice is paying over half of their wage on travel to and from their apprenticeship
They would not release any more details or give a timeline of when an actual policy might be introduced – plans will be set out “in due course”.
“As per the government’s manifesto commitment, we are clear that we do not want the costs of travel to deter young people from undertaking an apprenticeship,” said Department for Education spokesperson.
In the meantime, the number of people taking up apprenticeships is dropping at an alarming rate.
The total apprenticeship starts for May, June and July fell 61 per cent compared with the same period last year.
The National Society of Apprentices, an arm of the National Union of Students, hit out at the government’s lack of urgency in delivering discount travel, which it said limits the type of apprenticeships on offer to people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“It is a huge problem when the type of apprenticeships that apprentices can access is limited by their ability to access public transport,” a spokesperson told FE Week.
“It is a huge problem when an apprentice is paying over half of their wage on travel to and from their apprenticeship.
“The cost and availability of public transport for apprentices is causing massive issues and the NSoA is disappointed that the government is not treating the issue with the priority that it deserves.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said that with “so many apprentices trying to get by on low wages and with limited support”, the government “must do more to ensure that everyone, whatever their background, can access high quality apprenticeships”.