Apprenticeship data, published on 30 July, shows a 60% year-on-year drop in apprenticeship starts for the month of May, with 22,300 starts in May 2019 dropping to 9,000 in 2020. Young people appear to be the hardest hit as starts for those aged 16 to 18 plunged by 79 per cent, and starts on level 2 apprenticeships by 74%. The data also shows that starts have continued to fall by around half since lockdown started in March.

DfE’s statisticians note that final data will not become available until later in the year, and say that “at this point it is unclear what the true number of starts in the affected period was or if the level of reporting at this point in the year has been affected by the lockdown”.

Responding to the latest figures, AELP managing director Jane Hickie said:

‘These numbers, including the big drop in advertised vacancies, are two months’ old but they show why the government made a serious error in deciding that its Covid provider relief scheme should not cover the large majority of apprenticeship provision. Providers are now having to take very difficult decisions about reducing capacity despite the measures announced by the chancellor in his summer statement.

‘This is traditionally a very busy time of year for apprentice recruitment of school leavers but compared with a year ago starts are down by over three-quarters for entry level apprenticeships and for 16 to 18 year olds. Bearing in mind that apprenticeships are work based learning programmes, AELP is also concerned about the repeated stories in the media that many employers are content for their staff to continue working from home at least for the remainder of the year and in some cases much longer. Great strides have been made in recent months to enable more online learning and assessment of apprentices but this doesn’t offer the silver bullet in terms of restoring the pre-lockdown volumes.

‘The government’s Plan for Jobs will be an acid test for getting the apprenticeship programme back on its feet. The key question is whether the new employer incentives will be large enough to really make a difference.’

Link to official apprenticeships data for May 2020: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/apprenticeships-and-traineeships-may-2020

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