Sharp fall in basic level apprenticeships for workers aged 25+ shows that government reforms are weeding out poor quality provision

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The sharp drop in level 2 apprenticeship starts for workers aged 25+ show that the government reforms are weeding out poorer quality provision, though the fall in starts for young people is a concern, the Resolution Foundation said today (Thursday) in response to the latest figures for apprenticeship starts.

The DfE figures show that there were 68,200 apprenticeship starts between November 2017 and January 2018, down 37 per cent on the same quarter last year.

The Foundation notes that over half (56%) of the fall in starts is accounted for by apprentices aged 25+. The biggest fall (down 59%) was among level 2 apprenticeships for workers aged 25+, from 26,200 to 10,700 in the latest quarter.

Encouragingly, the number of higher (level 4) apprenticeships for young people (aged 19-24) continued to increase, up 27 per cent on the previous year to 1,900.

Forthcoming Resolution Foundation research for the Intergenerational Commission on reforming post-16 education will highlight some of the challenges facing apprenticeships, including:

  • While 95 per cent of Level 2 and Level 3 apprentices aged under 19 identified themselves as an apprentice when asked, fewer than half (45%) of apprentices aged 25+ were able to – raising big questions about the role and quality of courses that older apprentices are doing.
  • In 2016/17 a majority of providers inspected by Ofsted were labelled ‘requiring improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

The Foundation welcomes the introduction of minimum training requirements and independent end point assessments, which will improve the quality of apprenticeships and weed out poor quality provision.

Kathleen Henehan, Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said:

“The number of apprenticeship starts has continued to fall following the introduction of much-needed reforms last year.

“But while fewer training opportunities for young people is a big concern, the fact that the drop is concentrated among lower level courses suggest that reforms are having the desired effect of driving up standards and weeding out poor quality provision. It’s also encouraging to see the number of higher level apprenticeships continue to grow.

“The recent reforms are still bedding in so its important government sticks to its guns and presses on. These changes should be part of a wider drive to give high quality vocational training a far bigger role in our post-16 education system.”

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