‘A society that truly embraces apprenticeships will revolutionise work’

The chairman of REED Recruitment writes in Tes that he had high hopes for the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, but the policy doesn’t seem to be working

In 1980, my mind was focused on heading to university, an experience being shared by fewer than one in six of my peers.

In the near-four decades since then, there has been an increase in the number of universities and a large rise in the numbers attending them. This year, around one in three 18-year-olds will start a degree. But the rapid growth in student numbers is arguably not the most significant change in higher education in that period.   

I had high hopes for the apprenticeship levy when it was introduced in 2017. It promised a solution to the skills shortage and a way to boost pay and productivity. But a year after it launched, it doesn’t seem to be working.

Our latest jobs market data shows a 37 per cent decline in apprenticeships year-on-year, and our Youth Insight Research shows that just one in 10 young adults views apprenticeships as a chosen path to career entry.

Half of young people still perceive a university degree as their preferred route into a career, despite the concerns over value for money. There is an obvious disconnect. If the government is to reach its target of 3 million new apprenticeship starters by 2020, a rethink is needed.

There is still too much red tape and regulation surrounding the levy. Many businesses view it as a tax on jobs. Many have experienced delays in getting the scheme off the ground. We had issues ourselves, as funding was delayed by seven months. Hopefully, as the administration catches up, more businesses will come on board. 

Low starting salaries for apprentices are also said to be putting off young people – but there is a clear argument to be made that a low starting salary is better than a large debt subject to high interest rates. We must communicate this better and attract talent.

Read more ‘A society that truly embraces apprenticeships will revolutionise work’

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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Categories: Apprenticeships, Further Education and Higher Education.


  1. Christiana Rose

    Apprenticeships: Yes, I wholeheartedly agree! That’s one big reason why the economies in Austria and Germany do so much better. In those countries, apprenticeships are highly regarded and small companies are supported by the government, so that they can afford to take people on. They nurture the apprentices well, supporting them to get qualifications etc. There isn’t the feeling in schools that only very academically weak students shouldn’t go to university. But this needs a whole shift in attitude.

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