Story of the week

Apprenticeship numbers fall by more than 10% in 12 months

Basic apprenticeship take-up rates have fallen significantly.

The Department for Education and Skills said the number of basic apprenticeships being undertaken fell by 12% from 159,500 in January 2006 to 140,100 in January this year. Advanced apprenticeships, which equip those who take them to be supervisors or managers, fell by 4.2% over the same period to 96,000 for the year to 31 January 2007.

Although shadow education secretary David Willetts said the figures showed the government’s “skills agenda was failing,” the DfES said apprenticeships were a success story: “Completion rates have improved significantly year on year.”
In March the Learning and Skills Council said that in the first half of the 2006-2007 academic year almost 60% of apprentices completed their programmes successfully. It claimed that was as good as most advanced economies except Germany where the completion rate is 70%.

In 2001-2 the UK apprenticeship completion rate fewer than one in four of those starting apprenticeships finished them successfully. By 2004-5 that rate had risen to 40% and last year it was 53%.

According to evidence from the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs, which is examining employment and training opportunities for young people, apprenticeship opportunities in the construction industry are being affected by the influx of skilled workers from new EU countries.  It said, for example, the ratio of apprentices to workforce at the giant Terminal 5 site at Heathrow airport was just 1 to 250.

The document said the corresponding ratio in Germany would be 12 to 100.

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