Figures published this morning show that the number of apprenticeship starts aged 25 and above has more than tripled, to 175,500 in 2010/11.

Provisional figures in the October 2011 Statistical First Release (SFR) show that whilst the number 0f 25+ increased by over 250% (from 49,100 to 175,500), all age apprenticeships starts increased 58% from 279,700 in 2009/10 to 442,700 in 2010/11. Excluding those aged 25+, the number of starts increased just 16% from 230,600 to 267,200 starts. Click here to download the figures.

Nick Linford, Managing Director of Lsect and Managing Editor of FE Week, said: “We had been expecting the 25+ apprenticeship starts figure to more than triple, so whilst many more than the Government had planned it comes as no great surprise.

“However, given that many of these learners will have already been in employment, it is inevitable that the Government will have tough questions to answer about value for money.”

The final quarter figures published today add to the the record 327,700 new apprenticeship starts that were reported between August 2010 and April 2011 in the June 2011 SFR (click here)

As a means of chasing government targets for expansion of apprenticeships, 25+ provision makes perfect sense.  In every other respect it is probably not a good idea and dilutes an already ‘confused’ apprenticeship brand/offer.”

Professor Ewart Keep, from Cardiff University, said that the figures will likely show a dilution in the apprenticeship brand.

“Post-25 age apprenticeships, in almost every other country, would be regarded as adult training/re-training, not as apprenticeships, as this term/form of training is restricted to initial Vocational Education Training,” he said.

“As a means of chasing government targets for expansion of apprenticeships, 25+ provision makes perfect sense.  In every other respect it is probably not a good idea and dilutes an already ‘confused’ apprenticeship brand/offer.  I have no problem with offering training/re-training to the post-25 age group, but it isn’t really an apprenticeship in any meaningful sense.”

The expected rise in adult apprenticeships has been attributed, in part, to the increasing number of training schemes being run at supermarkets.

In June, FE Week reported that Morrisons have started over 18,000 25+ Level 2 retail apprenticeships in 2010/11, nearly all of which are taken up by existing employees (click here).

Julian Bailey, Head of Media Relations at Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc, said: “We think apprenticeships are important for new and existing staff as a way of developing and enhancing skills.”

We have not been able to agree at this time any additional funding for new 25+ Apprenticeship starts.”

FE Week and The Mail on Sunday has also reported on Asda (click here), who plan to deliver 25,000 new apprenticeships to existing employees only.

Many of these employees are expected to be above the age of 25.

A wholly owned subsidiary of City & Guilds was allocated more than £8 million by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) to deliver the apprenticeships at Asda.

A spokesperson from the SFA said: “We would hope that employers and providers do not move this extra resource into significantly expanding their Intermediate Apprenticeships (Level 2) for 25-year-olds and over.”

The Agency has hinted that they won’t provide any additional funding in an attempt to reduce the growth in 25+ apprenticeships.

A document published by the SFA in June (click here) states: “We have not been able to agree at this time any additional funding for new 25+ Apprenticeship starts.”

“Although we are aware that freedoms and flexibilities allow providers to move money within their Adult Skills Budget, we expect the providers who are awarded growth to spend this as per the business cases submitted with the account teams.”

It later adds: “We want the sector to continue to focus on growth for those aged 19-24.”

Mr Keep said that a key statistic in the SFR next week should be the ratio between the number of young people wanting an apprenticeship, and the number of actual apprenticeship places available.

“At present, demand seems to be outstripping supply at an alarming level,” he said.

“With youth unemployment rising, EMAs vanishing (so earning and learning may be the only way to fund skill acquisition) and the cost of HE going up, more and more young people will want an apprenticeship place.  The problem that the government faces is that employers are free agents, and provide as many or as few opportunities for training as they choose.  I see few signs that employers are rising to the challenge that has been set them.”

The coalition government has smashed apprenticeship targets by giving providers greater freedom over funding provision.

This in turn has fuelled the surge in apprenticeships for learners aged 25 and above.

John Hayes, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning said at the Conservative Party Conference 2011: “The government has put apprenticeships at the heart of our programme for skills. Apprenticeships are growing beyond labour’s wildest dreams.

“We’ve already delivered 100,000 new places and we will create 250,000 more apprenticeships over this parliament.”

Further analysis and a link to the SFR will be published in this weeks edition of the FE Week newspaper.

Related articles in FE Week (incl. info graphic ~ 11mb):

Adult apprenticeships benefit from Train to Gain funding

Hundreds of 12 week apprenticeships advertised on NAS website are ‘under review’

Short 12 week apprenticeships are off the menu

Remind me again why I pay the training budget of a $422bn company?

City and Guilds allocated more than £8m for 25,000 Asda Apprentices

Morrisons, Elmfied and the over 25 Apprentices

12 week apprenticeships still advertised

Will 12 week apprentices ever be derailed?

Latest apprenticeship policy slammed

NAS concerned about quality following rapid apprenticeship expansion

Concern at 12 week apprenticeships

External related links:

Guardian: Jobs rebranded as apprenticeships, government report warns

Guardian: Apprenticeship figures are not what they seem

Telegraph: Apprenticeships double but concerns over ‘chasing targets’

Mail on Sunday: The great apprentice racket: Some jobs fall short of skills as firms collect millions

Guardian: Big increase in apprenticeships due to ‘striking rise’ in trainees over 25

BBC Radio 4 In Business programme on supermarket apprentices

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  1. So “we will give the sector freedoms and flexibilities but tell them what they can spend the money on” is the SFA’s line then? I’m not in favour of this many 25+ apprentices (i can see some situations where they would be useful for re-training so I don’t disapprove entirely), but they can’t have it both ways. Either there are targets or there aren’t…

  2. Earlier this year I spoke to someone in a College which had a licence to print money through churning out NVQs for taxi drivers. “What will you do when Train to Gain funding stops?” I asked. “Simple”, she replied “we’ll just use apprenticeship funding instead”.

    The Labour/Leitch “Skills equals qualifications, so if people have got qualifications it means we’ve upskilled them” approach was always flawed and I was naive to think that the new government realised this. But David “we’ve doubled the number of apprenticeships” Willets and his colleague John Hayes seem just as addicted to this futile numbers game as their predecessors, despite this being a government committed to rooting out waste and reducing unnecessary pubic spending…

  3. lindsay mccurdy

    AS the SFA are handing out millions to organisations to give members of staff already working an “apprenticeship” the numbers are just going to keep on growing. I would love to have a look at a scheme of work for these apprenticeship qualification and see how progression is made and also lenght of qualification. THe SFA and NAS should be its hands up and say its all about numbers