Monthly apprenticeship update: 3m starts target slips further away with just 22,300 starts in May

Apprenticeship starts for May are down 40 per cent compared with the same period in 2016 – but up 9,400 on last year.

There have been 22,300 starts recorded so far in May 2018, compared with around 36,700 in May 2016 according to the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s monthly apprenticeship statistics update, published this morning.

The 2016 figures are final, whereas the 2018 figures are provisional. May 2016 is a better comparator than May 2017 given that there was a huge drop in starts following the introduction of the levy. 

These are the first statistics published in which the year-on-year comparison is against post-levy figures. 

Comparing first recorded starts for May 2018 to May 2017 gives an increase of 9,400 or 72 per cent, which is the first year-on-year increase since the introduction of the levy last May.

However, starts for the month in 2017 were down 65 per cent on May 2016, according to final statistics for the year. There were just 12,900 starts in May 2017, compared with 36,700 in 2016.

Simon Ashworth, chief policy officer at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “On A level results day, it’s particularly disappointing to have further confirmation that the levy reforms have led to a massive drop in apprenticeship starts which mean opportunities are limited for those young people who want a debt-free alternative to university. 

“The picture looks no better for those getting their GCSE results next week who will want to start earning while learning instead of staying on in sixth form or college.

“When ministers return from their holidays, they really must get a grip on this if they are serious about social mobility and improving ‘home grown’ workforce productivity in a post-Brexit economy.”

Skills minister Anne Milton said: “Our reforms have driven up investment in the quality of apprenticeships to build skills and give people more opportunities to succeed. I’m pleased to see the number of people starting our new high quality apprenticeships – created in partnership with businesses and employers – continuing to rise.

“In the last 12 months more than 100,000 more people have started these new apprenticeships, putting them on the path to success in a range of cutting-edge and exciting industries such as aerospace engineering, nuclear science and architecture. As young people across the country receive their A level results today I would encourage them to consider the opportunities an apprenticeship can provide.

“Today’s figures also show more businesses are also getting on board with the new system and the chance to use their levy funds to kick start amazing apprenticeship programmes that will change their businesses – and people’s lives – for the better.”