Why are there still so few apprentices in 2021?

Why are there still so few apprentices?

Back in our 2015 blog, we discussed the then Prime Minister David Cameron’s ambitious pledge to provide 3 million apprenticeships by the year 2020, in order to help provide young people with the skills and expertise that today’s employers demand. Given this commitment, just why are there still so few apprentices in 2021?

A disappointing response  

Unfortunately, just three years after the pledge to support 3 million new apprenticeships to young people, the 2018 FE Week article reported the Department for Education’s refusal to back the target set for 2020. According to FE Week’s analysis and presented in the table below, the apprenticeship start figures were down a sizeable 23 percent from where they needed to be to hit the ambitious 2020 target, which seems to be continuing to fall.  
But why is there still such a poor apprenticeship take-up?

Why are there still so few apprentices?
Fig 1: Monthly progress toward 2020 3 million apprenticeship target (FE Week. 2018. Government no longer backing its own 3m apprenticeship manifesto commitment. [ONLINE] Available at: https://feweek.co.uk/2018/08/20/government-no-longer-backing-its-own-3m-apprenticeship-manifesto-commitment/.

In a 2018 YouGov survey, statistics showed that just 11% of 15-18-year olds are likely to be encouraged towards an apprenticeship rather than university.

Furthermore, 73% of students claimed that the most-likely recommendation made to them by their school or college would be to take a university route, showing that the roots of the presumptions lie within the education system itself.

Despite the presumption surrounding the lack of prestigiousness of apprenticeships, Lawrence Barton, the Managing Director of the Birmingham-based apprenticeship provider ‘GB training (UK Ltd)’ says that ‘the government’s own data proves that in many cases this belief is false, and that apprenticeships often offer more fruitful outcomes.’

Changing perceptions

In a new attempt to combat this prevailing attitude and the rise in unemployment which is set to hit the young, the now Prime Minister Boris Johnson has posed a new £100million pledge: an apprenticeship available to every young person in the UK.

As reported in the Financial Times, The Prime Minister described the 100million scheme as a ‘genuinely revolutionary policy.’ It is expected to help put an end to the ongoing UK skills shortage, increase the attractiveness of apprenticeships and help tackle the dreaded post-Covid-19 wave of unemployment that is awaiting the youth.

It was also proposed that the salary of an apprentice is raised to that of other workers in the UK, and we think this will play a huge part in increasing the appeal of apprenticeships to those who are leaving school and are in search of a career. It seems that the change in perception of apprenticeships relies heavily on being boosted through its most influential root: this being the education system itself.

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