Apprentice numbers in engineering and construction have plummeted while management apprenticeships have rocketed 45 per cent.

Engineering, based on provisional figures for the full 2011/12 year, fell 30 per cent to 12,890, while construction dropped 18 per cent to 12,850.

Their high points, respectively, were 20,700 apprenticeship starts in 2006/07 and 18,330 in 2010/11.

The numbers appear in a breakdown of the 502,500 new apprenticeship starts announced by the government last month.

The number of start-ups was welcomed, but there was also concern that the number of 16-18 apprenticeship starts had fallen 10 per cent from the previous year to 22,000.

Gordon Marsden, Labour’s shadow FE minister, described the fall in construction and engineering apprenticeships as a “serious concern”.

He said: “These figures come on top of continuing gloom about decline in construction industry activity and echo the worrying fall in apprenticeship starts for 16 to 18-year-olds.”

Earlier this year Mr Marsden called for incentives to increase starts in high-quality apprenticeship areas, such as engineering and construction.

He suggested that the government use the Growth and Innovation Fund to give incentives to large companies to buddy-up with both their supply chain and other small and medium enterprises in their sector.

“This, and giving Local Enterprise Partnerships more funding and powers, as Lord Heseltine has just recommended, would also help.

“We desperately need action orchestrated locally to kick-start growth to expand younger and older people’s apprentice opportunities in these areas.”

These figures come on top of continuing gloom about decline in construction industry activity and echo the worrying fall in apprenticeship starts for 16 to 18-year-olds.”

The number of management apprenticeship starts rose to 43,330 last year. In 2003/2004 there were just 880.

Matthew Street, Skills CFA interim head of development, said: “Management and leadership skills have a huge impact on the development, productivity and performance of organisations of all sizes, in all sectors.

“We’re really pleased with the increase in management apprenticeships over the past few years, with the numbers suggesting a real tipping point has been reached for team-leading and management apprenticeships.

“We have been promoting the value of business skills for a number of years and we believe that management is management, regardless of the sector or industry an individual is working in. It’s a great boost to see the generic-management and team-leading apprenticeship numbers taking off.

“It’s interesting to note that management apprenticeships are predominantly taken by individuals already in employment, with significant numbers being over 24.

“To us, this suggests that there is increasing acceptance that apprenticeships aren’t just for learning basic skills or for younger learners. Skills CFA and FE have been promoting this for many years.”

Chris Jones, chief executive officer and director general of City & Guilds, said: “It’s extremely encouraging to see such an increase in numbers of management apprenticeships — it shows apprenticeships and the vocational route more broadly are being recognised as viable routes to advancement both in more office-based and managerial roles, as well as the traditional trade sectors.

“At City & Guilds, we have always believed that learners should be able to reach the highest levels through work-based learning.

“It’s vital that investment should be focused on the provision of fuller progression routes for young people.”

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