Monthly apprenticeships update: April starts up 3% on last year but May stays static

Apprenticeship starts for the period August 2018 to May 2019 are up 7 per cent on the previous year, but 26 per cent down for the same period in 2016/17 – the year before the levy reforms were introduced.

Monthly provisional figures for both April and May 2019 were published by the Department for Education this morning.

They show 24,800 starts for April 2019, which is 3 per cent up on the 24,100 provisional starts published this time last year, but 65 per cent down on the 71,000 starts in April 2017.

For May 2019 the data shows 22,300 starts, the same number published at the same time last year. The 22,300 starts are 73 per cent up on the 12,900 in May 2017, but they’re down by 39 per cent on the 36,700 achieved for the same month in 2016.

May 2016 is a better comparator than May 2017 given that there was a huge drop in starts following the introduction of the levy.

There have been 336,900 apprenticeship starts reported to date between August 2018 and May 2019, compared to 315,900 reported in the equivalent period in 2017/18, 457,200 in 2016/17 and 420,800 in 2015/16.

A spokesperson for the Association of Employment and Learning Providers said today’s figures “confirm what a big job” new education secretary Gavin Williamson has “to get the levy reforms back on the right track”.

“The fact is that the situation is not going to get any better unless he acts quickly because apprenticeship training providers are running out of funding to allow non-levy SME employers to offer new opportunities on the programme,” he added.

“AELP is writing to the minister today to underline the urgency of the issue.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the number of people starting an apprenticeship has increased by 6.6 per cent compared to this time last year.

“It’s also good news that over 62 per cent of people this academic year started their apprenticeship journey on one of our new higher-quality apprenticeships, which were designed in partnership with employers.”

She added: “Thanks to our reforms, apprenticeships are now longer with more off-the-job training and have a proper assessment at the end. There are also more apprenticeship opportunities available in a range of exciting industries like law, fashion, architecture and aviation.”