Apprenticeship starts dip 12% after functional skills rate announcement

Starts dive month after officials announced funding fast-track

Starts dive month after officials announced funding fast-track

15 Feb 2024, 13:18

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Apprenticeship starts for November 2023 – the month after officials announced new functional skills funding rates would be fast-tracked – dipped 12 per cent on the previous year.

Figures published this morning by the Department for Education show there were 25,100 starts in November 2023 compared to 28,800 in November 2022.

There were 30,160 starts in November 2021 and even 26,630 in 2020 – the year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The slump in starts for November 2023 is likely to have been caused by the DfE’s announcement on October 31 that new funding rates for English and maths functional skills courses would be brought forward to begin from January 2024.

Officials had originally planned to introduce the new rates from the start of the 2024/25 academic year but decided to implement them sooner following lobbying from the sector.

Since January, all apprentices who have not gained their level 2 English and maths qualification have had their funding lifted to match the adult education budget – moving the rate up by 54 per cent from £471 to £724.

Critically, however, the new rates only apply to new apprenticeship starters and not those already on programme.

While overall starts for November 2023 fell 12 per cent on the previous year, the decline was felt the most among young apprentices and the lower levels.

Starts for those aged 16 to 18 dipped by 20 per cent from 7,600 to 6,090 over that period, while starts for 19 to 24s fell 16 per cent from 8,490 to 7,110 and starts for adults aged 25 and over declined by 6 per cent from 12,710 to 11,900.

Level 2 starts fell 21 per cent from 7,510 to 5,940 and level 3 starts dropped 19 per cent from 14,190 to 11,440. Starts on higher level apprenticeships actually rose 9 per cent from 7,100 to 7,720. 

November’s drop has shrunk the positive increase in apprenticeship starts in the 2023/24 academic year.

Figures published last month showed a 7 per cent increase overall in the first quarter of the year, which covers the months August, September and October.

Starts are now only 2 per cent up for the period August to November 2023.

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