The Department for Education is ditching the multi-million pound ‘Fire It Up’ campaign meant to boost apprenticeship numbers, amid the lowest levels of take-up by young people since at least the 1980s.

An update from the Education and Skills Funding Agency today revealed the government will instead focus on promoting every option available to people at post-16 and post-18.

“As a result of ongoing work to integrate government communications for young people about education, training and work, the Department for Education will no longer run the ‘Fire it Up’ advertising campaign,” the update read.

Consequently, the DfE says it will not be renewing the licence to use rapper Busta Rhymes’ 1997 track ‘Fire It Up’ for their apprenticeships TV advert.

Providers have been asked to remove the track from any of their channels promoting apprenticeships by 1 September, which is when the licence will expire.


‘Fire It Up’ cost DfE millions

fire it up
The blue feather logo

The blue feather ‘Apprenticeships’ logo can still be used on digital platforms, but not in print.

Any questions about using the campaign brand or assets should be directed to

‘Fire It Up’ was the result of a £5 million, two-year contract the department signed with world-renowned advertising firm M&C Saatchi in November 2019.

The first stage of the advertising campaign, aimed at boosting the number of apprenticeships, started in January and saw some initial success.

In January, just 14 per cent of young people told the DfE they were considering an apprenticeship, but by September that had risen to 71 per cent.

The campaign also included the release of a grime music track, which cost the DfE £1 million but contributed to a 171 per cent increase in the number of users of the apprenticeship website in January to March 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.


Apprenticeship take-up at lowest levels since ’80s

News of the demise of ‘Fire It Up’ comes the same day think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies released a report showing only three per cent of 16- and 17-year-olds took apprenticeships last year.

This is the lowest level since at least the 1980s and probably longer, the briefing on FE and sixth form spending revealed.

The DfE has stressed it is not discontinuing its communications activity around apprenticeships, with a spokesperson saying: “We are working across government to integrate all our communications about education, training and work both for young people and for adults.

“This will include communications about all options available to young people and adults respectively, including apprenticeships.”

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  1. Paul Timmins

    Is the problem that learners do not want to take up places on Apprentice programs or that Employers are not offering the same number of apprentice opportunities.
    My personal opinion, based on working in a FE college as an Engineering Tutor, is that large firms are generally maintaining numbers but small and medium sized firms are not recruiting. Whether this is due to the changes in the structure of the courses, the difficulties in sorting out funding or the recent Covid pandemic I’m not sure. I do know of two local firms who decided not to recruit new apprentices but to employ people who had recently finished their apprentiships and then been laid off (an all too common occurrence at the moment).

  2. Phil Hatton

    Lack of apprentices is due to lower demand by smaller employers and schools telling parents to keep their kids on at school to catch up on missed learning, because many schools did not adapt quickly enough. However, I don’t think the campaign was an effective one either as none of the apprentices I talk to about how they became an apprentice have ever mentioned it. Ofsted talk about poor careers advice but need to carry out a survey to really tell government what is happening in schools and the FE sector.

  3. Stefan Drew

    Ive spent decades in education marketing and still wonder where and why they dream up these absurd campaigns.

    Fire it up …. Is it surprising this fails? It’s total BS.

    And that’s without all the other issues eg Levy etc.