Apprenticeship starts for the month of February 2020 fell 11 per cent on the previous year, figures published this morning show (see below).

The statisticians at the Department for Education said: “Apprenticeship starts reported to date have decreased to 198,600 from 214,200 in the first two quarters of 2018/19, a decrease of 7.3 per cent.”

They go on to say that of the 198,600 starts in the first half of this academic year, 64.9 per cent (128,900) were on the apprenticeship digital system and 74.3 per cent (147,600 starts) were on standards.

Reaction to the latest figures:

Gillian Keegan, minister for apprenticeships and skills, told FE Week: “The reforms introduced in 2017 mean apprenticeships are longer, more rigorous, and quality assessed by independent organisations. This has resulted in a slight decline in the number of starts, but we will continue to prioritise quality over quantity.

“While the impact of the coronavirus is still becoming clear, we are supporting employers, apprentices and training providers during this challenging time so people can continue to access high-quality apprenticeship opportunities. Apprenticeships are a valuable route into good quality employment and will play a vital role in securing our economic recovery, post-coronavirus.”

Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers said: “These pre-pandemic figures are bad enough which is why the government should be getting round the table with us to discuss how covid-19 provider support measures should apply to all apprenticeships and not just to those offered by SMEs.

“New apprenticeship starts are falling off a cliff and the more time the government vacillates over the covid-19 guidance, the worse it’s going to get. Furthermore we must get full transparency in terms of publishing the starts data over the coming months because the statement the DfE made about this earlier this week was very alarming.”

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