Reality Check: A Look at Apprenticeships in the UK

Reality Check: A Look at Apprenticeships in the UK

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As Government sets its sights on achieving three million apprenticeship starts in England by 2020, John Pratt, Head of Apprenticeship Management at University College of Estate Management, asks whether this is a pipedream or a solid foundation for building the UK’s future?

Since 2010, the Government has been focused on reviving apprenticeships – and with a degree of success; it’s more than doubled the number of starts in England in the last six years. To continue increasing apprenticeships, there has been this year’s introduction of the apprentice levy – and a target of a further three million apprenticeship starts by 2020 has been set.

The Department for Education (DfE) has said it will transform professional and technical education – ensuring that it’s a high-quality, prestigious alternative to academic study post-16. It has also pledged to ensure schools promote apprenticeships on a par with university or sixth-form studies.

What’s the reality? Figures so far

There were nearly 2.5 million new apprenticeships created in England between 2010-2015, compared to 1.1 million starts in the previous period. And between 2015-16, there were 509,400 new apprenticeship starts in England – 9,500 more than the previous year.

Within the Built Environment sector, construction apprenticeship starts are at a record high, according to CITB. Almost 25,000 started in 2015/16 across England, Scotland and Wales, which is a 25 per cent increase in the past two years. Starts have shot up from 19,973 in 2014 to 24,899 in 2016 – and is the highest figure since the present way of recording apprenticeships began in 2003.

These are encouraging statistics, but there’s still a way to go to hit three million.

So what’s still needed?

It’s important to make sure everyone is encouraged to consider an apprenticeship as part of their career; that they have the support to carry it out, and it’s applicable to industry needs. The Government can help by sharing skills shortage data on a national, regional and sector-specific basis to help ensure that the uptake of apprenticeships in these areas is prioritised.

Education establishments – from primary schools to universities – need to promote apprenticeships as a viable and respected career option. While UK businesses and industries need to ensure apprenticeships are no longer seen as an inferior alternative to the university route.

Levy-paying employers need to embrace the apprenticeship levy and its benefits, and work with training providers to create high-quality apprenticeships in which on- and off-the-job training is effectively coordinated and managed. They need to collaborate to ensure that individuals are recruited to the right apprenticeships and are trained and supported in not only starting but completing their apprenticeship.

Three million starts could be achievable, but it’s only a good target if there are a similar number of completions. It’s the responsibility of everyone in the Built Environment to work together to help achieve both quantity and quality in future apprenticeships and close the skills gap.

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