Apprenticeship upturn need not be a predictable shift away from helping those in most need

25 Jan 2019, 12:30

Last February, when Skills Minister Anne Milton was faced with a 41 percent fall in apprenticeships starts since the levy was introduced, she bravely told me she expected to see an upturn by September.

“I will be told by my officials that I shouldn’t say this, but I’m going to say it anyway,” she said.

“I would hope that by September to see some real numbers.”

So it comes as no surprise that Milton has said she is “thrilled” at the apprenticeship starts figures for the first quarter of 2018/19 (August, September and October), up 15 per cent on the same period last year.

It is still not at pre-levy levels and a long way off being on track to hit the 3 million target, but it is certainly now heading in the right direction.

And like Milton, I’ve believed employers and providers would take their time to build momentum and the numbers would recover.

But scratch beneath the celebratory surface and you’ll find an uncomfortable truth.

Employers are using their ownership of the system to ignore young people.

First quarter starts have fallen by nearly a quarter since 2015/16 for those under the age of 25 and continue to fall for 16 to 18s since the levy was introduced.

Contrast this with apprenticeship starts for those aged 25 and over increasing a whopping 14,400 (43 percent) this quarter, when compared to the same period last year.

And when the National Audit Office publishes its findings in the coming months it is expected to join calls from the chief inspector at Ofsted to take back some control from employers.

Milton has said that the first phase of the levy reform was to get the system up and running and phase two is focussed on a longer term strategy.

Shifting demand away from existing employees on management courses to young job entrants should be at the heart of that strategy.

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.