In February 2018 there were 21,800 apprenticeship starts – down by 40 per cent from the 36,400 starts in February 2017 reported at this point last year.
The drop is even more pronounced than that reported in January, when the decline in starts stood at 31 per cent.
Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “The levy itself isn’t the problem but as MPs on the Commons Education Select Committee made clear to the minister on Tuesday, the manner of its implementation is letting down thousands of SMEs and young people across the country.
Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said: “Are employers taking their time to adapt to the new system, or has quality increased as the government now argues, or is there a fundamental flaw? In truth, it’s likely a mix of all three. The levy is an important and welcome change, but quality and access will be the ultimate measures of success, not starts.”
Apprenticeships and skills minister Anne Milton said: “The number of people starting on the old style apprenticeships has fallen, but the number of people starting on our new, higher-quality apprenticeships are increasing well beyond our expectations. We won’t sacrifice that quality to increase quantity… We are unapologetic about our ambition to make sure that everyone, regardless of their background, can access high quality apprenticeship opportunities. That’s what our changes to apprenticeships in this country are all about.”
Founder of the education and social mobility charity Sutton Trust Sir Peter Lampl said: “The government is right to focus on creating more high quality routes and it is vital that young people from low and moderate income backgrounds access them. Our polling shows that there is an ingrained negative attitude to apprenticeships amongst teachers, parents and young people which must be urgently addressed.”
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