Halfon ‘encouraged’ by apprenticeship trends since the levy 

Higher levels continue to grow while level 2 falls to lowest on record

Higher levels continue to grow while level 2 falls to lowest on record

30 Nov 2023, 20:33

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The skills minister has said he is “encouraged” by the growing take-up of higher and degree apprenticeships, as new data shows their share of the market has almost tripled since the launch of the levy.

Robert Halfon is also “pleased” that two-thirds of apprenticeship starts are now at levels 2 and 3 – though this is now the lowest proportion on record.

Final full-year apprenticeship figures have now been published, and confirmed a 3.5 per cent drop in overall starts from 2021/22 to 2022/23, as reported by FE Week last month.

The data release also included a section showing the trends in apprenticeship take-up since the launch of the levy in 2017. Overall, starts across all levels fell by 10 per cent between 2017/18 and 2022/23, moving from 375,760 to 337,140.

In 2017/18, the proportion of level 2 apprenticeship starts sat at 43 per cent, while level 3 was 44 per cent, and higher levels had just 13 per cent.

By 2022/23, however, soaring higher level starts accounted for 33 per cent of all apprenticeship starts, whereas level 2 starts shrunk to 23 per cent. The proportion of level 3 starts remained unchanged at 44 per cent.

The numbers of higher-level apprenticeship starts (112,930) are now at the highest on record and level 2 starts (76,280) the lowest.

Shift driven mainly by level 6 and 7s

The rise in degree-level apprenticeships is the main driver for the trend.

Level 6 apprenticeships have quadrupled from 6,370 in 2017/18 to 25,030 in 2022/23.

And starts at level 7 have risen by five-fold, from 4,500 to 21,760 over that period.

FE Week understands discussions are ongoing between Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for Education about potentially restricting the amount of levy funds that can be spent on degree-level apprenticeships amid affordability concerns.

Young people squeezed out even further

Starts for young people have also continued to decline since the launch of the levy.

In 2017/18, those aged 16 to 18 accounted for 28 per cent of all starts. This fell to 23 per cent in 2022/23.

Meanwhile, starts for those aged 25 and over made up 41 per cent of starts in 2017/18, which grew to 48 per cent in 2022/23.

The proportion of starts aged 19 to 24 has stayed stable over that time, shifting only slightly from 30 per cent to 29 per cent.

Figures ‘please’ minister

Responding to the data, Robert Halfon, the DfE’s minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education, said: “I’m pleased that these figures show that under 25s continue to make up over half of all apprenticeship starts, and two-thirds of starts are also at Level 2 and 3.

“I’m also encouraged that take up of higher and degree apprenticeships has grown, demonstrating the demand for these opportunities is high. 

“Degree apprenticeships are a brilliant alternative to doing a traditional three-year degree and support employers to tap into the higher-level skills they need. We are investing £40 million over the next two years so we can provide even more degree level opportunities.

“We are continuing to promote apprenticeships to young people through our Apprenticeships Support and Knowledge programme, backed by £3.2 million a year. You can now also search for apprenticeships on the UCAS Hub and from 2024, students will then be able to apply for apprenticeships through UCAS alongside an undergraduate degree application.”

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  1. Tony Allen

    It is great to see degree apprenticeships, and those where the learner obtains a mandatory qualification, flying. I am a real ambassador for those.
    However, it is a disgrace that the number of 16-18 year olds undertaking an apprenticeship has fallen from 68% in 2015 to 28% now. That is indefensible!
    Similarly, SME participation has fallen off a cliff. That too is indefensible!
    For me, Halfon and his predecessors have failed young people, and failed small businesses.

    • Mike Doyle

      Sadly this published table is percentages.
      You should go here : https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn06113/

      Higher Apprenticeships may be “flying” with starts increasing year on year from19,800 in 2014/15 to 112,930 in 2022/23. (However, what type and duration of apprenticeships these are needs unpicking before being too “encouraged”). Not stated is total apprenticeship starts fell by about 160,000 per year after 2016/17 and have flatlined since.

      The disgrace referred to is worse – Intermediate and advanced apprenticeships are not flying. The starts for these levels in 2014/15 were 480,100, in 2022/23 they were 224,210. At a time when we need skills our intermediate and advanced Apprenticeship starts per year are just under 47% of what they were 10 years ago. Being starts per year figures the deficit is a failure (for young people, SMEs and the economy) that accumulates annually.