Younger people not benefiting from apprenticeship drive, report finds

The government’s agenda to boost apprenticeships is failing to support young people into training, according to a report from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

Released in response to an inquiry into apprenticeships by the Commons Select Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy, the report highlights that of the recent rise in numbers of apprenticeship starts, most of those were among those aged 24 and over.

Apprenticeship starts among youngsters aged 16 to 24 have hardly changed since 2010, with 4,200 under-24s currently studying towards a higher apprenticeship.


Low-level education

The report also states that apprenticeships don’t represent an educational “step up”, since most apprentices of A-level equivalent age – those aged 16 to 18 – are undertaking a GCSE-level course.

In addition, 97 per cent of apprentices of university age – those aged 18 to 21 – are on a programme equivalent to or lower than an A-level qualification.

The commission found that youth apprenticeships tend to be in sectors that typically pay poorly and offer limited career progression, which perpetuates the idea that youngsters are better off going to university.


Concentrate on under-24s, says tsar

The chair of the commission, Alan Milburn, welcomed the government’s drive to boost numbers of apprentices and improve the quality, but warned that a greater focus should be placed on bettering the quality of provision for younger students.

He said: “The government is committed to giving all young people a chance to make something of their lives, but the current drive to increase the number of apprenticeships isn’t delivering for people under the age of 24.

“The number of young apprentices 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.”


Proportional numbers

But Mark Beatson, chief economist at the CIPD, said the plateau in apprentices aged under 24 was in line with the proportion of youngsters of that age among the UK population. The focus, he said, ought to be on the level, quality and mix of apprenticeships on offer for all ages.

He said: “A very small proportion of apprenticeships offer a degree or university-equivalent qualification, and it’s not the case that there aren’t enough quality apprentices to take on higher-level schemes.

“A lot of employers find apprenticeships time, labour and cost-intensive. If the educational benefits of an apprenticeship scheme are not equivalent to higher education or university, and many apprentices leave organisations after completing their scheme, the incentives and routes to progression are stunted for both employer and apprentice.”