Confusion as official websites return different apprenticeship results

Concerns that two official apprenticeship websites could be causing confusion have emerged with identical vacancy searches returning vastly different results.

The Skills Funding Agency is keeping its old vacancy matching website running until April while its replacement, which has already gone live, is being tested and developed.

However, with an example search on the old site uncovering 2,444 apprenticeship vacancies in London compared to just 71 on the new site, Andy Gannon, 157 Group director of policy, public relations and research, warned information needed to be “easy to find, navigate and understand”.

An SFA spokesperson said the differing figures were down to the old apprenticeship vacancies service automatically searching for vacancies within a 10-mile radius of the requested location.

The new site, however, operates a two-mile radius default, unless users change the radius.

The SFA launched the new webpage on the central government site, where a link to the old website, on an address, is also available.

Mr Gannon said: “The critical thing about information about any form of education is that it is easy to find, navigate and understand.

“We hope this move of information is underpinned by research that indicates it will definitely achieve a greater level of accessibility, as does not seem intuitively to be a place learners might be browsing for such information.

“Of course, wherever the information is, people do need to know what it is about in order to look for it in the first place.”

David Hughes, chief executive of the National Institute of Continuing Education (Niace), said: “Unfortunately there are certain groups who are massively under-represented and if all the vacancies aren’t being posted properly [for the new vacancies search service] then this will reduce fair and equal access to apprenticeships.”

The SFA spokesperson said: “The new ‘Find an apprenticeship’ application system is currently in Beta [development] phase, which includes parallel running of both old and new systems, to allow for testing, user feedback and any necessary adjustments.

“We have user-tested the search capabilities of ‘Find an apprenticeship’ and will be continually improving the search capabilities over the course of the public Beta phase.”

Visit to view the new and old vacancy search services.

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  1. It is a weakness of both the old and new websites that they assume that applicants will only be interested in ‘local’ opportunities, and on that score it is immaterial whether the search parameters stop at 10 miles or 40 (the new upper limit). The example I know best is sea fishing, available in England only through the Whitby Fishing School. Unless you know, you could search a long time and not find it. That can’t be right.

    The implication behind limiting the Search facility to the immediate locality is that young people will only want to train locally, and that’s simply wrong. Many travel long distances to train through Whitby, taking advantage of its excellent industry links (and supportive network of landladies and landlords).

    The new vacancy website should remove this cap on ambition and include an option in the Search facility to cover national provision.

    Iain Mackinnon
    Maritime Skills Alliance