Help boost apprenticeship starts among young people and fix the drop-out rate, skills minister tells IfATE

Alex Burghart issues tasks to the institute in new 'strategic guidance'

Alex Burghart issues tasks to the institute in new 'strategic guidance'

25 Apr 2022, 17:21

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The skills minister has told the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to help boost apprenticeship starts among young people, including by reviewing level 2 and 3 programmes to ensure they “meet the needs of career starters”.

Alex Burghart (pictured) has also instructed the apprenticeship quango to address “issues” within its remit that are leading to the high drop-out rate, as well as to help improve achievement rates.

Burghart’s tasks appeared in new “strategic guidance” issued to the institute today.

It comes a month after the skills minister told FE Week’s annual apprenticeship conference the government “must” increase the number of young people starting apprenticeships.

Apprenticeship starts among young people have been steadily decreasing since the government’s levy reforms in 2017.

In 2018/19, under 19s made up 24.8 per cent of all starts, this dropped to 23.6 per cent in 2019/20 and in 2020/21 it fell to 20.3 per cent.

In a letter to IfATE chief executive Jennifer Coupland today, Burghart said: “The department is aiming to increase participation by young people in all levels of apprenticeships. I would like the institute to support the department with this, including in its work on mapping progression routes.”

Jennifer Coupland

In 2022-23 he wants the institute to review “availability” of level 2 and level 3 standards and “consider whether the current offer meets the needs of career starters across all sectors”.

The institute should also “explore and make proposals to the department on how some standards might be flagged as particularly suitable for career starters, so that young people, employers and providers are much clearer about their potential”.

Burghart is also seeking the institute’s assistance in addressing the high drop-out rate in apprenticeships which is concerning ministers, and boost the achievement rate.

Data published by the DfE in March showed that only 53 per cent of apprentices on the new-style standards stayed on their programme until their end-point assessment in 2020/21 – meaning that 47 per cent dropped out.  

The figure was even worse in 2019/20 when 53.4 per cent of apprentices on standards dropped out.

Meanwhile, the overall achievement rate for all apprenticeships hit 57.7 per cent in 2020/21. The achievement rate for 2019/20 stood at 57.5 per cent.  

For 2020/21 the achievement rate on standards was just 51.8 per cent, while in 2019/20 it was 45.2 per cent.  

Former skills minister Gillian Keegan ordered an investigation into the “astonishingly” high drop-out rate for apprenticeship last year.

Burghart said today that by 2024-25 the institute is expected to have reached a position where it has “addressed issues within the scope of its remit regarding occupational standards associated with high levels of withdrawals; and has successfully worked with the department and the Quality Alliance to identify and support the improvement of achievement rates across the range of levers collectively available”.

In response to the letter, Coupland said: “I’m delighted that the minister has recognised the impressive progress made by IfATE and the vital role we will play with creating a unified skills system that delivers for everyone.

“To ensure quality, the new skills system must all be based on standards set by employers and be easier for learners and employers to understand and navigate. Supporting more young people from diverse backgrounds into rewarding careers, pushing up achievement rates, and ensuring entry level training supports social mobility are all areas we are fully committed to.”

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  1. Tim Buchanan

    Have to laugh that to develop a standard going forward you need to prove that there is robust data to support starts before a standard can be developed. This was the initial process when the very first standards were developed. Since IFATE came into being that process was significantly eroded, hence numerous standards with minimal to no starts. Talk about going the full circle for the better I have to say, now if we can also have qualifications given centre stage in standards because that is what employers and apprentices want then we would be back on track. Qualifications will trump a English based apprenticeship certificate every day, in tandem we have a product that meets everyone needs.

  2. I hope the impact of incentives has been thought through.

    It got bums on seats, but as it has fixed payment points there needs to be someone looking at withdrawal dates in close proximity to incentive payment dates. Incentives could well send ripples through achievement data for some years to come…

    It’s probably also worth thinking about what less withdrawal does to overall funding and participation – all those drop outs mean providers don’t get all the funding, including the completion payment. When the drop out rate improves, then the finite amount of available funding would mean a participation ceiling or a budget overspend.

    Conversely, the recent high drop out rate & fewer starts means unspent funds have been given back to Treasury. Given that the levy is a hypothecated tax, meaning it should be used on what it was collected for, there should be a big lump sum building up for apprenticeships. Has anyone got sight of that amount?… We need a journalist!