Apprenticeship take-up since the introduction of the levy last May continues to slide, but whether this represents a longer-term problem is debatable.

The CBI calls it “alarming”, which, given it represents employers, will be uncomfortable for the government.

But if big employers are simply in the planning phase, as the skills minister suggests, the CBI has only got itself to blame.

It successfully lobbied to let levy credit sit unused in accounts for a full two years, longer than the government had originally planned.

Is it any wonder then that employers are in no rush to spend it?

Writing my editorial last October, after the first dramatic fall in apprenticeship starts were revealed, I predicted this was a temporary fall.

Anecdotal evidence is that many large employers, particularly in the public sector, are gearing up for huge recruitment in April, the start of their financial year.

These figures that won’t be made public for at least another seven months.

But as I’ve also said before, the problem isn’t likely to be quantity or even quality, it’s whether employer decisions are aligned to government priorities.

So keep an eye on 16- to 18-year-old starts, down 20 per cent between May and October.

Parents’ negative perceptions of apprenticeships aren’t the problem, something the skills minister has also said this week.

The problem for 16- to 18-year-olds will be employers lacking sufficient incentives to create vacancies for them.


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  1. How do you think the public sector are going to fund the salaries of large numbers of New apprentices as government imposed cuts continue to reduce base budgets and service levels are cut