HR · 21 March 2016

Apprenticeship drive failing to deliver for young people, MPs declare

Young people have not benefitted from recent increases in apprenticeship numbers

The government’s drive on apprenticeships is failing to deliver for young people, with the vast majority of the recent increases in apprenticeship starts relating to people over the age of 24.

According to a report submitted to a select committee of MPs by the committee on social mobility and child poverty, the number of young people starting apprenticeships has in fact shown little change since 2010.

Apprenticeships were also found to not represent a significant step up for young people when compared with academic courses. Most apprentices of A Level age do GCSE-level apprenticeships, whilst 97 per cent of university-age apprentices do apprenticeships at A-level equivalent or lower.

The report highlighted that the majority of youth apprenticeships are in sectors which typically have low pay and limited chance of progression, such as health and social care, business administration or hospitality and catering.

Whilst efforts to improve the overall quality of apprenticeships as well as the number of apprenticeships available were recognised by the report, the commission said that more effort was needed to improve the quality of apprenticeships for young people.

Commenting on the report’s findings, chair of the commission Alan Milburn said: “The number of young apprenticeships has flat-lined since 2010 and many of these apprenticeships don’t offer young people a foundation they can build on.

“The government needs to increase the quality of apprenticeships on offer to young people and make sure that every apprenticeship offers a genuine route to success,” he added.

The government has so far outlined a plan to deliver three million apprenticeships “starts” by 2020, but the report suggested that a focus on starts risked doubling or even triple counting some apprentices, noting that declining completion rates were reducing the impact of increasing start numbers and suggesting that debate should focus on the number of completed apprenticeships as well as the number of starts.

The current number of 19 – 24-year-olds enrolled onto an apprenticeship scheme is approximately 4,200. The commission called on the government to raise this number to 30,000 by 2020.

Apprentices have proved increasingly of value to small business. According to recent data compiled by the Skills Funding Agency, 80 per cent of managers valued hiring apprentices above any other means of growing startups.

Read our top five tips for creating future-proof apprenticships.

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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