Better careers advice needed to boost young apprenticeship numbers

Better advice and guidance for young people is needed with figures suggesting 16 to 24-year-olds were making up a shrinking proportion of apprenticeship start numbers, it has been claimed.

The number of 2014/15 apprenticeship starts was provisionally put at 492,700 in this month’s statistical first release. Of these, 210,100 were aged 25 or above — a rise of 33.2 per cent, or 52,400, from the same figures last year.

And further comparing provisional figures, the 25+ age group made up 42.6 per cent of all apprenticeship starts last year, versus 36.5 per cent (157,700) in 2013/14, and 44.9 (222,200) the previous year.

The troubled, and ultimately scrapped, 24+ advanced learning loans for apprenticeships are widely acknowledged to have been responsible for the 2013/14 fall.

However, in quarter four 2014/15, the 25+ age group was provisionally behind 50.9 per cent (55,900) of all starts — up from 49.1 per cent (58,000) in 2013/14.

Teresa Frith, AoC senior skills policy manager, said: “It’s more difficult to recruit apprentices in the 16 to 18 or 19 to 24 age groups for a number of reasons.

“Better careers advice and guidance would make young people aware that an apprenticeship could be an option for them to get a foot on the career ladder.”

Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “The numbers for 25+ are still 20,000 lower than the pre-loan figure but the government nailed its commitment to all-age apprenticeships to the mast well before the general election and you are seeing employers and providers respond.

“Nevertheless, AELP wants to see starts for 16 to 24 increase every year and we strongly support initiatives such as better information and guidance to help make that happen.”

Provisional figures for traineeships also suggest there were 19,200 starts in 2014/15 — 800 short of former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s target of 20,000 new traineeship starts.

Meanwhile, Shadow Skills Minister Gordon Marsden accused the government of letting down young people.

Provisional figures for 2014/15 suggested that 245,300 people achieved an apprenticeship in the last year. In comparison, final figures showed that 255,800 people achieved an apprenticeship in 2013/14.

“The government must improve the quality of apprenticeships and their results, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Department for Education need to have a joined up approach which provides real progression for young people,” he said.

Lady Margaret Sharp, former Liberal Democrat education spokesperson in the House of Lords, said she was “very critical of current developments”.

The government, in her view, was misleading people into “believing we’ve got all these young people into good training jobs which will not only provide them with good solid jobs when they’ve finished but also solve all our skills shortages”.

The reality, she said, was that “very few of them are for 16 to 18-year-olds, most go to those already employed in the firm.”

A BIS spokesperson said: “We are developing a comprehensive plan to grow the number of high quality apprenticeships. This will include working closely with large employers, more support for small businesses and a renewed emphasis on promoting the value of apprenticeships.”

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  1. Talking to school pupils at a careers event last week, they firmly believe they have to stay at school until they are 18 and didn’t realise they could leave at 16 to start an apprenticeship. Schools need to be more honest about leavers options and start to put pupils first. We had one Headteacher claim they lost 4 A level students to apprenticeships – which is a common but pretty poor attitude as we are seeing an increasing number of school leavers going on to higher apprenticeships