The number of apprenticeship starts has dropped significantly since last year, calling into question the effectiveness of the apprenticeship levy.
Figures from the Department for Education have revealed that there have been 261,200 apprenticeship starts between August 2017 and March 2018 for the academic year. This compares to 362,400 and 346,300 starts reported in the equivalent period in 2016/17 and 2015/16 respectively. This shows a drop of almost 28% from last year’s figures.
The new numbers suggest that the government will fall short of its plans to create three million new apprenticeship starts by 2020.
In response to the decline in apprenticeships the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has released a 10-point plan for the government and employers to encourage more apprenticeship starts. These include listening to businesses to help reform the levy, relaxing the ‘complex and restrictive’ levy rules, employers embracing wider workforce planning and the government providing a single point of accountability. On this point, the CMI stated: ‘The Institute for Apprenticeships should be resourced to bring forward apprenticeship standards more quickly and take on end-to-end responsibility for the successful funding, execution and monitoring of apprenticeships policy.’
Ann Francke, chief executive of the CMI, said: “The drop in the number of apprenticeship starts shows that government needs to make apprenticeships a lot more flexible and a lot less bureaucratic. This is a transformation – not a tweak – and needs to be much more clearly communicated and managed.”
The figures come as research by the City & Guilds Group and Emsi found that apprenticeships could be the solution to skills shortages after Brexit, with 89% of the 1,000 UK employers surveyed saying they already struggle to recruit skilled staff.
The People Power research found that more than 35% are mostly planning to recruit apprentices in the next three to five years, while 38% plan to use an apprenticeship programme to attract candidates.
It showed that 45% of employers surveyed want more support from the government, while a further 45% want support from the UK’s education system. Respondents also recognised the need to take more responsibility for skills development themselves, with this cited by 45%.
The research identified the areas in which skills gaps are most prominent, with 47% of respondents citing managers and leaders as the job levels that they struggle with the most when it comes to recruitment.
The study also found that salaries look set to rise, with more than 95% of employers stating that they intend to increase wages over the next three to five years.