The number of apprenticephip starts aged 25 and above is expected to soar in the latest Statistical First Release (SFR) due next Thursday.
Based on the June 2011 SFR, if the same number of starts in February to April 2010 are repeated in May to July 2011, more than 50,000 will have started taking the full year figure to over 170,000.
Nick Linford, Managing Director of Lsect and Managing Editor of FE Week, said: “I’m expecting the 25+ apprenticeship starts figure for 2010/11 to exceed 170,000, which would represent a more than tripling of the 49,100 starts in 2010/11.
“Given an increase in adult apprenticeships of this magnitued was uplanned, and 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, when published on Thursday, will add to the the record 326,700 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’
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 here on October 27 shortly after 9.30am.