The government’s Data Service promised to publish apprenticeship recruitment figures for 2010/11 today at 9.30am. They did not disappoint, and in the spirit of all things short, within eight minutes FE Week published their analysis of the figures (click here).

Whilst the supplementary tables show the number of 16 year-olds starting apprenticeships rose just 1%  from 29,380 to 29,750, compare this to those aged 25 and over, which increased by 257 per cent from 49,140 to 175,500. This included a 396 per cent increase in 45-59 year-olds from 9,810 to 48,650 and 878 per cent increase in 60 year-olds and over from 400 to 3,910.

The figures also showed a 13 per cent increase in construction and engineering apprenticeships to 32,850. Compare this to customer service, retail and business admininstration apprenticeships, which combined increased by 81 per cent to 132,480.

Most impressively, retail apprenticeships are up 145 per cent to 41,390. Nick Linford, Managing Editor of FE Week, tells me that when John Hayes was boasting about the Apprenticeships numbers in the corridor at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) Annual Conference, he said that he should thank Morrisons.

Digging beneath the ‘record growth in apprenticeships’ headlines and John Hayes telling parliament it is ‘a rosy day’, there linger plenty of questions concerning the role of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) in shaping figures. Then there is the Skills Funding Agency, who have made it clear in their statements that the funding priority is for apprenticeships aged 16-24. So what is going on?

Of particular interest has been the rapid rise in very short apprenticeships, or what the National Apprenticeship Agency call ‘hot housing’. There is little doubt they are linked to the growth in ‘non-traditional’ service sector adult apprenticeships.

So, if you are new to the concept of a 12 week apprenticeship, lets get you up to speed with a potted history:

June 12th : Front page in the first edition of FE Week shouts: “Concern at 12 week apprenticeships”. The story details 12 week call centre apprenticeships delivered by Synapse (owned by Elmfield Training). A short time later the Synapse website simply stated: “we no longer deliver apprenticeships”.

The FE Week article also refered to the apprenticeships advertised in as few as 12 weeks, by the De Vere Academy, where they  plan to deliver 10,000 over three years.

June 21st : Simon Waugh, The Chief Executive of the NAS, presents a slide at the AELP Annual Conference, which says: “we still need to eradicate ‘low train’ and ‘hot-house’ delivery models.”

July 18th : The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) makes a statement which said NAS will now be “accountable for ensuring quality and standards and securing value for money for public investment in apprenticeships. The underpinning services that will support these new arrangements are currently being finalised within the NAS and Skills Funding Agency and are expected to be in place by early autumn.”

August 30th : NAS publish a two page ‘Statement on the Quality of Apprenticeship Delivery Models’. This includes the sentence: “NAS will work with the Skills Funding Agency and look critically at Apprenticeships delivered in a condensed way.”

September 12th : FE Week reports on 12 week apprenticeships advertised on The Security Training School website, a sub-contractor to Leeds and Newham College.

September 19th : FE Week reports on 12 week apprenticeships in Level 2 Railway Engineering, advertised on the Train’d Up website.

October 18th : FE Week approaches NAS for comment regarding more than 700 vacancies on their website for 12 and 16 week Apprenticeships at the De Vere Academy.

October 21st : FE Week reports on the De Vere 12 week apprenticeships, including comment from NAS that 12 week programmes are now ‘under review’. NAS also write to both the Association of Colleges (AoC) and AELP regarding the review.

October 25th : NAS publish a statement on ‘short apprenticeships’, which says: “our priority will be to remove Apprenticeship funding from provision which fails to meet the required standard”. The statement goes on: “We have already indicated to De Vere that their programme does not meet the comprehensive standards for Apprenticeship programmes”.

October 27th : NAS publish a statement on Retail Apprenticeships, in which David Way, Chief Operating Officer of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) said: “Where the quality of Apprenticeship delivery falls below the standard required, the Skills Funding Agency and the NAS will reform provision to comply”.

History lesson over for now, but plenty to consider and for NAS to resolve. Then there is tackling the lack of investment from the big employers delivering tens of thousands of adult apprenticeships to their existing staff. As I’ve asked before, remind me again why neither Morrisons nor Asda pay a penny for their apprenticeships? In all seriousness, I wish David Way the best of luck. Taxi for Simon Waugh?

Related articles in FE Week (incl. info graphic ~ 11mb):

Adult apprenticeships benefit from Train to Gain funding

Hundreds of 12 week apprenticeships advertised on NAS website are ‘under review’

Remind me again why I pay the training budget of a $422bn company?

City and Guilds allocated more than £8m for 25,000 Asda Apprentices

Morrisons, Elmfied and the over 25 Apprentices

12 week apprenticeships still advertised

Will 12 week apprentices ever be derailed?

Latest apprenticeship policy slammed

NAS concerned about quality following rapid apprenticeship expansion

Concern at 12 week apprenticeships

External related links:

Guardian: Jobs rebranded as apprenticeships, government report warns

Guardian: Apprenticeship figures are not what they seem

Telegraph: Apprenticeships double but concerns over ‘chasing targets’

Mail on Sunday: The great apprentice racket: Some jobs fall short of skills as firms collect millions

Guardian: Big increase in apprenticeships due to ‘striking rise’ in trainees over 25

BBC Radio 4 In Business programme on supermarket apprentices

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  1. lindsay mccurdy

    If SFA/ NAS is going to continue/be allowed to hand out millions to these large companies at least a min % of all apprenticeships should be for 16-18 year range 19-24 age range and 25+.. 10% of the morrisson total for 16- 18 would be 2000+ apprenticeships and 20% would have been 4000+ apprenticeships for young people, now that is more like it