Disadvantaged students risk being left behind by government’s apprenticeships programme as number of starters from poorer areas drop, report finds

The proportion of apprenticeship starts among people from disadvantaged areas has fallen despite the government’s push to boost diversity, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found.  The Independent reports.

In 2017-18, 22.6 per cent of new apprentices were from the most deprived local authority areas, compared with 25 per cent in 2015-16, the report by the cross-party group of MPs stated.

The Department for Education (DfE) is taking “far too long” to get to grips with the lack of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics apprenticeships, it added.

Overall, in the 2017-18 academic year, there were 375,800 apprenticeship starts. This was 26 per cent lower than the 509,400 starts in 2015-16, before the apprenticeship levy was introduced.

Since April 2017, employers with an annual pay bill of more than £3m have been required to pay an apprenticeship levy of 0.5 per cent of the bill.

“Ultimately, the lack of progress has disrupted the direction of the programme,” said PAC chair Meg Hillier. “The way the programme is evolving is out of kilter with the department’s objectives; opportunities for people with lower skills are diminishing and apprenticeship starts in disadvantaged communities have fallen.

“What’s more, take-up from under-represented groups has been too low. We are supportive of the programme’s core objective to draw apprentices from a wider range of social and demographic groups, but this is at complete odds with its unambitious targets.”

But Anne Milton, apprenticeships and skills minister, said “There is still work to be done, but we won’t sacrifice quality for quantity and I’m thrilled that the number of people starting on our new high-quality apprenticeships has risen by 79 per cent in the first half of 2018-19 compared to the same period last year.”

Read more Disadvantaged students risk being left behind by government’s apprenticeships programme as number of starters from poorer areas drop, report finds

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