The Department for Education has surpassed the government’s public sector target for recruiting apprentices for the second year in a row, the education secretary has claimed.

Ever since the apprenticeship levy was launched in April 2017, public-sector bodies with 250 or more employees have been set a target of employing at least 2.3 per cent of their total staff as new apprentice every year until 2021.

The DfE said today that it has had 354 apprentices in training since the rule came into force, in areas such as cyber security, digital marketing, project delivery and software development at all levels.

A total of 116 of those apprentices were new starters at the department in 2017/18, which the DfE said equated to 2.5 per cent of its total workforce.

In 2018/19, this rose to 177 apprentice starts – 2.9 per cent of the DfE’s 6,080-strong workforce.

The department also claimed today that it is “on track” to exceed the target again in 2019/20.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “It is fantastic news that we have exceeded our target for two years in a row – making us one of the top recruiters of apprentices across government.

“There are some brilliant apprenticeship opportunities within the department as well as across the public sector. Our apprentices are working in a range of exciting roles from cyber security, public relations and accountancy.”

Data released today via a freedom of information request showed that the DfE has drawn down £983,000 since the levy’s introduction in April 2017 up until 31 July 2019.

“This is the amount that we have spent on learning in that period and doesn’t include any other incentive payments,” the DfE said.

The public-sector apprenticeship target covers the period April 1 to March 31 each year.

It’s an average target across the years 2017/18 to 2020/21 to “give flexibility to organisations to manage peaks and troughs in recruitment”.

Overall progress towards the target stood at 1.4 per cent after 2017/18.

Public sector bodies have until the 30 September to submit their figures for 2018/19.

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