AEB, Apprenticeships, Skills reform, Traineeships

8 interesting things we learned from today’s FE data drop

Traineeships and public sector apprenticeship target flops among the findings

Traineeships and public sector apprenticeship target flops among the findings

24 Nov 2022, 15:32

The Department for Education released multiple data sets this morning that show the take up of apprenticeships, traineeships and adult education in 2021/22.

Here’s what you need to know…

First full year of free courses for jobs

After a slow start, the government’s ‘free courses for jobs’ offer of fully funded level 3 courses for certain adults had just under 25,000 enrolments.

When the £95 million policy was introduced in April 2021, adults could only access funded courses if they didn’t already hold a level 3 qualification. That rule was changed in April 2022 when unemployed learners, and those earning below the national living wage, become eligible even if they already held a level 3 qualification.

There have been 24,470 enrolments through the scheme from when it launched in April 2021 up to July 2022.

Statisticians have estimated that enrolments on eligible courses were 70 per cent higher in 2021/22 than in 2018/19 as a result of the policy.

Record low loans

Advanced learner loans received the lowest number of applications in 2021/22 since they were introduced in 2016.

Applications have been in steady decline every year, however the drop from 62,870 applications in 2020/21 to just 49,210 is the largest year-on-year drop.

As a result, the total amount of loan funding in 2021/22 was £130.4 million. That figure was £236.2 million in 2016/17.

The introduction of the free courses for jobs policy has meant that potentially thousands of learners that would previously have taken out an advanced learner loan would have been eligible for full funding.

Public sector apprenticeship target missed… again

Public sector bodies in England with 250 or more staff were set a target by government to employ an average of at least 2.3 per cent of their staff as new apprentice starts over the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2021. Figures published last November showed this had been missed as an average of 1.7 per cent of employees started an apprenticeship over that period.

The target was repeated for the period April 2021 to March 2022, as a single-year stand-alone target. Figures published for the first time today show an average of 1.8 per cent of employees started an apprenticeship over that period.

During this one-year target, the armed forces were by far the largest employer of apprentices with an average of 7.1 per cent of employees starting an apprenticeship since April 2021.

The police were next at 2.4 per cent, followed by fire authorities at 2.1 per cent and the civil service, at 1.9 per cent.

Schools have the lowest rate of apprenticeship recruitment averaging at 1.1 per cent since April 2021.

Colleges fail to increase apprenticeship market share

Multiple education secretaries have pleaded with colleges to increase their delivery of apprenticeships in recent years – but the data suggests their calls have fallen on deaf ears.

Of the 349,200 apprenticeship starts in the 2021/22 academic year, private providers were responsible for 65.2 per cent (227,600).

General FE colleges accounted for just 18.7 per cent (65,300) – the same proportion as 2020/21.

Apprenticeship starts increase most for the young

As FE Week reported last month, apprenticeship starts for the whole of the 2021/22 grew 9 per cent on the previous academic year – and it was young people who saw the biggest increase.

Today’s data provides slightly updated figures but the proportions have stayed the same.

A total of 349,200 starts were reported for 2021/22 compared to 321,400 in 2020/21. Last year’s figures are still 11 per cent lower than the 393,400 recorded for 2018/19 – the year before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of the 349,200 starts, higher apprenticeship (level 4+) reached their highest volume and now represent almost a third of all starts. They accounted for just 4 per cent of starts in 2014/15.

Encouragingly, the share of starts for under 19s increased to 22.2 per cent in 2021/22 from 20.3 per cent in 2020/21. Starts for 19 to 24s and those aged 25 and older saw their proportion of starts drop overall and now account for 30 per cent and 47 per cent respectively.

Another traineeships flop

The government missed its target of 43,000 traineeships by almost two thirds last year.

Just 15,500 starts were recorded in 2021/22 – 36 per cent of the goal. It comes despite the Treasury investing £126 million in traineeships in 2021/22.

This was on top of a £111 million being pumped into the pre-employment programme in 2020/21, when 17,400 starts were recorded against a target of 36,700.

Read our full story on the traineeships data here.

Overall adult numbers struggling to recover post Covid 

Participation in adult education increased by 80,000 learners in 2021/22 compared to the previous year, the first increase in nearly ten years.

Statistics released today reveal that there were 1.72 million adults participating in apprenticeships, community learning and government funded education and training in academic year 2021/22. There were 1.64 million in adult education the year before. There hasn’t been in increase in overall adult education participation since 2012/13.

While this represents a 4.8 per cent increase on the 2020/21 year, when Covid restrictions were still blighting the sector, it’s 25 per cent, or 380,000 learners, short on pre-pandemic levels in 2018/19.

Community learning sees largest rise  

Compared to 2020/21, numbers of adults on apprenticeships increased 3.3 per cent and on funded education and training courses 1 per cent. But participation in community learning increased by 24.9 per cent from 243,700 to 304,400.

The bulk of that increase came from participation in “personal and community development learning”, up 43,100 on the previous year. However, the community learning sector is 186,000 learners short on where it was pre-pandemic is 2018/19.

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  1. The reason why FE Colleges’ market share of apprenticeships remains low is not because college leaders have deaf ears! To make apprenticeships work financially you need much higher volumes of starts, and most successful private providers either operate in a particular industry sector and/or concentrate on a few selected subject areas in order to achieve economies of scale. To do that you have to have national reach, and most FECs are place-based, anchor institutions serving local communities. So FE colleges will never increase market share significantly unless the current regulation and funding regime is radically reformed,