Apprenticeships and traineeships for 16 to 19 year olds - Education Contents

1  Introduction


1. Apprenticeships have a long history, and in recent years the operation of government-funded apprenticeships has undergone significant change. Concerns about the numbers of young people entering into apprenticeships and the quality of apprenticeship provision have driven these changes.

2. The starting point for reform of vocational education and apprenticeships in the current Parliament was the publication of the Wolf Report in March 2011. Alongside and in response to this report, the Government made a number of changes to apprenticeship frameworks, requiring apprenticeships to last for a minimum of 12 months, requiring an employer to be involved in all apprenticeships from the outset (which marked the end of programme-led apprenticeships), and introducing a grant for small businesses who employ an apprentice. Our colleagues on the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee published a report looking at apprenticeships for people of all ages in November 2012.[1]

3. A number of further reforms to apprenticeships, particularly focusing on apprenticeship funding and the design of apprenticeship frameworks, are in the process of being implemented by the Government. These were developed following the Richard Review of Apprenticeships in England, published in November 2012.[2] Our inquiry examines these proposed reforms to apprenticeships and traineeships in terms of their impact on 16-19 year olds.

Our inquiry

4. Our inquiry was launched on 21 July 2014, with the following terms of reference:

·  The effectiveness of apprenticeships and traineeships for 16-19 year olds, including in terms of meeting employer needs in different sectors, and providing young people with a solid foundation for employment in general or in particular occupations or for further study;

·  The range of apprenticeships and traineeships available to young people;

·  Current levels of employer engagement in apprenticeships (including in providing places or defining standards and setting assessment), and what further steps the Government could take to improve this;

·  The impact of recent changes to the funding of apprenticeships and traineeships;

·  Whether the Government's investment in apprenticeships represents value for money in terms of the future wage returns for young people and their employability;

·  How the Government could encourage businesses of all sizes and in all sectors to offer apprenticeships, including improved fiscal, regulatory and other measures;

·  What factors prevent more young people considering apprenticeships and how these could be overcome;

·  Whether young people are adequately prepared for apprenticeships and how that preparation should be improved;

·  How the Government could encourage more young people to consider apprenticeships and traineeships.

5. We received 91 written submissions from a wide range of witnesses. Much of the evidence came from employers, employer groups and training providers. We held four oral evidence sessions, hearing from six panels of witnesses as listed at the end of this report, as well as the Minister for Skills and Equalities, Nick Boles MP. We also ran an online forum on to gather views from current and prospective apprentices about their experiences.

6. During this inquiry we have benefitted from the expertise of our specialist adviser, Dr Lynn Gambin,[3] and our standing specialist adviser on matters relating to education and schools, Professor Alan Smithers.[4]

What is an apprenticeship?

7. The Government's implementation plan for the future of apprenticeships, published in October 2013, set out four principles that were intended to determine whether a programme of work-based learning should be recognised as an apprenticeship and receive Government support:

·  an Apprenticeship is a job, in a skilled occupation;

·  an Apprenticeship requires substantial and sustained training, lasting a minimum of 12 months and including off-the-job training;

·  an Apprenticeship leads to full competency in an occupation, demonstrated by the achievement of an Apprenticeship standard that is defined by employers; and

·  an Apprenticeship develops transferable skills, including English and maths, to progress careers.[5]

8. During the course of our inquiry it has become clear that a good quality apprenticeship should also comply with a further principle, that it should be income transformative in a measurable way, for those who complete the scheme. We welcome the Minister's agreement to this principle.[6]

16 to 19 year-olds

9. The term 16 to 19 year-olds covers young people who have their seventeenth or eighteenth birthday in the course of the academic year ending on 31 August. Some sources classify people by actual age, and where evidence to our inquiry references 16 to 18 year olds we have kept the original phrasing, but this should be read as equivalent to our definition of 16 to 19 year-olds.

Apprenticeship statistics

10. The Government publishes annual statistics for the numbers of people starting and undertaking apprenticeships. The most recent release provides figures up to the end of the 2013/14 academic year:

Table 1: Apprenticeship starts by age band, 2009/10-2013/14
Age Band 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14
Under 16400 320210 230200
1629,380 30,49029,890 25,08025,540
1740,780 44,84043,200 35,81038,970
1846,220 56,05056,590 53,43055,050
19-24113,770 143,430161,420 165,390159,120
25-3425,250 73,40097,060 101,18074,380
35-4413,680 54,47066,320 64,79042,850
45-599,810 50,32062,200 61,06041,850
60+400 3,8903,680 3,2602,480
Total 279,700 457,200 520,600 510,200 440,400

Source: BIS, Breakdown by geography, equality & diversity and sector subject area: starts 2002/03 to 2013/14

11. The table shows a large increase in overall apprenticeship starts, from 279,700 in 2009/10 to 520,600 in 2011/12. This was followed by a slight fall in 2012/13 and a more dramatic fall in 2013/14, down to 440,400. The DfE attributed this to the requirement to involve employers from the outset of any apprenticeship and the minimum 12 month duration introduced in August 2012.[7]

12. For 16 to 19 year olds, the picture is different. There was a modest increase in 2013/14 in the number of starts for 16, 17 and 18 year-olds[8] compared with 2012/13, up to 119,760 from 114,550, but the number of apprenticeship starts for this age group remains lower than in 2010/11, when there were 129,890 starts:Figure 1: Apprenticeship starts 2009/10-2013/14

Source: BIS, Breakdown by geography, equality & diversity and sector subject area: starts 2002/03 to 2013/14

Although direct comparisons between the years before and after 2011/12 are not possible due to changes in the way data is collected, the general trend shows little or no increase in overall numbers of starts for 16 to 19 year-olds over the last 5 years. The Minister suggested to us that the removal of short and programme-led apprenticeships had led to 40,000 such schemes for young people being "weeded out".[9] Based on DfE figures, in 2009/10 46% of apprenticeships (53,718) lasted at least 12 months and involved an employer from the start.[10] By 2012/13 this figure had risen to 97% (116,167).[11]

13. DfE figures indicate that young people make more applications for apprenticeships than their older counterparts: there were 939,270 applications via the apprenticeship vacancies website from 16 to 18 year olds in 2013/14 compared to 790,830 from people aged 19 and over.[12] Figures for previous years show a similar pattern.[13] During the first quarter of the 2013/14 academic year there were 12 applications (from people of all ages) per apprenticeship vacancy.[14]

14. Equally the proportion of young people who participate in apprenticeships has not varied, with 5% of the age group taking up an apprenticeship at the end of Key Stage 4, the same as in 2011/12.[15] The context for this figure is a cohort size of around 2 million, in which as many as two thirds of young people are taking part in some form of vocational training (such as NVQs, OCR Cambridge National Qualifications, BTECs and other courses).[16]

15. Employer engagement in apprenticeships has also remained constant over the last two years. The UKCES Employer Perspectives Survey found that in 2012, 9% of employers employed an apprentice, and a further 6% offered apprenticeships but did not currently employ any.[17] The 2014 survey found that 10% of employers had apprentices, with a further 5% offering apprenticeships.[18]

Background to traineeships

16. The Government launched the Access to Apprenticeships scheme in 2011. It was aimed at young people who required extra support before they could undertake an apprenticeship. Research by the House of Commons Library shows that the impact of the scheme was relatively modest:

    There were 14,400 starts on the Access to Apprenticeships pathway between 2011/12 and 2013/14, of which 5,500 converted to a full apprenticeship.[19]

Following the Richard Review, the Government announced that the Access to Apprenticeships scheme would be replaced by a new system of traineeships. The DfE described traineeships as follows:

    Traineeships respond directly to employers' concerns that many young people who apply for apprenticeships and other jobs lack the skills, qualifications, behaviours or experience they are looking for. Traineeships are an education and training programme with a core of work preparation training, English, maths, and work experience, designed to equip young people with the skills and experience they need to be able to gain an apprenticeship or sustainable job.[20]

Traineeships began from the 2013/14 Academic year. They last up to six months and include a minimum of 6 weeks work experience with an employer.[21] There were 7,000 traineeship starts by 16 to 19 year-olds in 2013/14[22] and 3,500 in the first quarter of 2014/15.[23]

1   Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2012/13, Apprenticeships, HC 83-I Back

2   Doug Richard, The Richard Review of Apprenticeships in England, November 2012 Back

3   Dr Lynn Gambin, Research Fellow, Warwick Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick, declared the following interests: Past sponsors of commissioned research include: BIS; National Apprenticeships Service; The Edge Foundation. Current sponsors of research projects include: Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education; Skills for Care; Business in the Community; CEDEFOP; Construction Industry Training Board; DG Employment, European Commission; Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Back

4   Professor Alan Smithers, Director, Centre for Education and Employment Research, University of Buckingham, declared no interests in connection with this inquiry. Back

5   BIS, The Future of Apprenticeships in England: Implementation Plan, October 2013, paragraph 20-21 Back

6   Q483 Back

7   DfE (), para 4.3 Back

8   Based on their age at the start of the programme. Back

9   Q395 Back

10   DfE () para viii Back

11   Ibid. Back

12   DfE, Apprenticeship vacancy report - number of applications by age, gender, ethnicity or ssa (T1) or programme level: February 2015, February 2015. Back

13   Ibid. Back

14   "Apprenticeship vacancies increase by a quarter year on year", National Apprenticeship Service press release, 17 February 2014 Back

15   DfE, Statistical First Release: Destinations of key stage 4 and key stage 5 students, 2012/13, January 2015, p.5 Back

16   DfE, Main SFR tables and figures: SFR18/2014 Back

17   UKCES, Employer Perspectives Survey: Executive Summary, December 2012, p.9 Back

18   UKCES, Employer Perspectives Survey 2014: UK Results, November 2014 p.91 Back

19   Apprenticeships Policy, House of Commons Library Standard Note SN03052, December 2014 Back

20   DfE () para xiv Back

21   National Apprenticeships Service, Traineeships: A factsheet for employers, October 2013 Back

22   Skills Funding Agency, Statistical First Release: Further Education & Skills: Learner Participation, Outcomes and Level of Highest Qualification data tables, January 2015 Back

23   Skills Funding Agency, Statistical First Release: Further Education & Skills: Learner Participation, Outcomes and Level of Highest Qualification Held, January 2015, p.17 Back

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Prepared 9 March 2015