Public sector apprenticeship target missed, and 4 other things we learned from today’s DfE data

Figures also show colleges accounted for only 18.5% cent of apprenticeship starts last year

Figures also show colleges accounted for only 18.5% cent of apprenticeship starts last year

25 Nov 2021, 11:54

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The government’s public sector apprenticeship target has officially been missed, final year-end data for 2020/21 has revealed.

Figures published this morning by the Department for Education also show colleges accounted for only 18.5 per cent of apprenticeship starts last year, as well as the impact multiple lockdowns has had on adult education participation.

The department said “extra care” should be taken when comparing the stats to previous years because they cover the period affected by varying Covid-19 restrictions, which impacted on learning and provider reporting “behaviour”.

Here are five things we learned…

  1. Apprenticeship starts stay stagnant

Overall apprenticeship starts were down by 0.3 per cent to 321,400, compared to 322,500 reported for the same period in 2019/20.

The proportion of starts for young people under the age of 19 dropped from 23.6 per cent to 20.3 per cent, while starts for over 25s grew from 46.8 per cent to 50.3 per cent.

At the same time, the proportion of starts on level 2 apprenticeships shrunk from 30.8 per cent to 26.2 per cent, while starts at level 4 and above shot up from 25.6 per cent to 30.7 per cent.

  1. Colleges accounted for just 18.5% of apprenticeship starts

Out of the 321,400 starts in 2020/21, private providers had 64.4 per cent of the market.

Other public funded provider such as local authorities and higher education institutions accounted for 16.3 per cent, while schools, sixth form colleges and special colleges made up 0.8 per cent.

Concerningly for education secretary Nadhim Zahawi, general FE colleges only accounted for 18.5 per cent (59,500) starts.

The figures come a week after Zahawi issued a call to arms to college leaders to deliver more apprenticeships. Addressing the Association of Colleges conference, he said: “Currently around 30 per cent of apprenticeships are carried out in colleges, but if we really want to transform supply we will have to grow that number.

“I know colleges are more than capable of it.”

  1. 2.3% public sector target failure

Public sector bodies in England with 250 or more staff were set a target by government to employ an average of at least 2.3 per cent of their staff as new apprentice starts over the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2021.

Figures published for the first time today show an average of 1.7 per cent of employees started an apprenticeship over that period. This equated to a combined total of over 220,000 starts.

The armed forces performed the best, achieving an average of 7.9 per cent between 2017 and 2021, while schools were the worst at 1 per cent.

  1. Tripling traineeships target tanks

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Plan for Jobs provided £111 million for up to 36,700 additional traineeships in 2020/21, including paying employers £1,000 for providing work placements for trainees.

This would triple the number of starts on the pre-employment programme after 14,900 were achieved in 2019/20.

Final year-end data published today shows only 17,400 starts were achieved in 2020/21 – 47 per cent of the target.

Plans to rapidly grow traineeship numbers were scuppered by various delays to tenders intended to expand the provider-base.

  1. Adult participation takes another hit

Adult government-funded further education and skills participation decreased by 6 per cent to 1,640,300 compared to 1,745,800 in the same period in 2019/20.

Participation specifically for the adult education budget meanwhile dropped 11.2 per cent to 925,300 compared to 1,042,000.

And participation in community learning fell by 32 per cent to 243,700 in 2020/21, from 358,300. 

The number of learners taking out an advance learner loan dropped to its lowest since 2014. Numbers in that year sat at 75,400 and grew to a peak of 119,000 in 2017. Loans participation in 2020/21 sat at 86,200.

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