Are apprenticeships losing their focus on young people?

Concerns have been raised that apprenticeships are losing their focus on young people, after figures from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) found that more than 350,000 of the UK’s 851,000 apprentices were over 25, and more than 50,000 were aged over 50.

Experts are worried that apprenticeships are simply becoming a numbers game, and even a way for businesses to get government subsidies for work training which would already be undertaken.

Labour chair of the Commons BIS committee, Adrian Bailey, said: “[Apprenticeships for] under 25s has at best been stable, and for a while actually decreased. These are the most hard to reach people. We have to pledge more money but I want to get away from the numbers game. Numbers of apprentices don’t mean we’re training people in the areas where there’s a shortage of skills.”

Teresa Frith, senior skills policy manager at the Association of Colleges said: “The fact there are 50,000 apprentices aged over 50 is not a bad thing in itself but the government needs to be sure that the training being provided is genuinely meeting the needs of the individual as well as their employer … Apprenticeships should be about providing worthwhile training, not hitting Whitehall targets.”

Tony Dolphin, of the Institute for Public Policy Research, said: “Our worry is that these people aged 25 and over are not new to the job market and certainly aren’t completing their education. It’s just paying for on-the-job training for existing workers.”