DfE department responsible for apprenticeship policy has hardly any apprentices

The division responsible for running and promoting apprenticeships within the Department for Education employs the lowest proportion of apprentices across the whole department.

Of the 519 people working within the DfE’s Higher and Further Education office, fewer than 10, which is less than 1 per cent, are apprentices.

It is not clear the exact number of apprentices it employs, however, as the document disclosed in a Parliamentary Question says the figure has been rounded to the nearest 10 in order to “protect the anonymity of individuals”.

If ministers wanted to see this policy succeed they would at least be able to meet their own targets

Skills minister Anne Milton revealed the awkward figure to shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, who requested the proportion of staff employed in each group of the DfE that are apprentices.

It showed the DfE has a total of 209 apprentices, accounting for 3 per cent of its 6,368 staff.

The department’s “operations group” has the largest proportion of apprentices: 91 out of 1,769 staff, or 5 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Education and Skills Funding Agency employs 60 apprentices within its 1,528 staff (4 per cent), and the DfE’s Government Equalities Office also has fewer than 10 apprentices, accounting for 2 per cent of 116 employees.

Apprentices at two other departments, the Social Care, Mobility and Equalities and the Early Years and School Group, also only represented 2 per cent of the total of members of staff.

The government’s public sector apprenticeship target, which came into effect last year, obliges public sector organisations – including the civil service – to make sure that new apprentices make up at least 2.3 per cent of their overall workforce numbers on average over the next four years.

FE Week revealed in November that only 1.3 per cent of the government workforce was made up of apprentices in 2017-18 – the first year of the policy.

The Department for Education had 116 starts over the year, which made up 1.9 per cent of its 6,080-strong workforce.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We are pleased the department met its public sector target in 2017-18, and want to continue to build on this with even more fantastic opportunities for people to get a rewarding career.

“Everyone, whatever their background, age or academic achievement, should consider doing an apprenticeship – in the civil service or in a range of other fantastic industries.”

But Rayner said it is “strikingly clear” that the government is “failing to meet its own target, a concerning sign that they are not serious about making a success of the apprenticeship programme”.

“If ministers wanted to see this policy succeed they would at least be able to meet their own targets, but they are not even able to manage that,” she added.

It looks like the DfE is on a big recruitment drive to increase the figures, particularly for personal assistant apprentices.

The department currently has 29 open vacancies on its civil service website for these level three apprenticeships, with salaries ranging from £23,485 to £25,216. The roles are based in Manchester, Bristol, London, and Coventry, and Capita has been appointed the main provider.

Rayner had also asked how many apprentices the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education employs, to which Milton said the organisation’s boss, Sir Gerry Berragan, will reveal the number in a letter to the shadow education secretary. FE Week has contacted the institute to find out the figure.