The number of apprenticeship starts in the UK fell dramatically in the first quarter of the 2017/18 academic year.
There were 114,400 apprenticeship starts reported for the period, compared to 155,600 reported at this time in 2016/17, a decrease of 26.5%, according to the latest Department of Education (DoE) statistics.
The DoE did point out that the decrease was not as large as the drop between the fourth quarters of 2015/16 and 2016/17, when apprenticeship starts fell by 59.3%, “which is likely to be associated with the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April 2017”.
“There have been 67,200 levy-supported starts so far, of which, 46,100 were reported in the first quarter for 2017/18,” the DoE said.
Employers with annual pay bills of more than £3 million must spend 0.5% of the total on the apprenticeship levy, which is being used to train millions of new apprentices by 2020.
The DoE’s explanation did not stop Institute of Directors head of policy research Seamus Nevin criticising the levy, which he said many employers are still struggling to understand.
Mark Farrar, chief executive of the Association of Accounting Technicians, said of the fall in apprenticeship starts: “While there is some value in seeing the rate of decline for new apprenticeship starts slow in Q1 2017/18, they nonetheless remain in decline.”
“The latest figures published by the Department for Education remain significantly lower than for the same period in each of the previous couple of years, and therefore there’s still a long way to go to repairing employer confidence in the system following the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.”
“Taking on an apprentice can be a great way of introducing and developing talent into organisations of all sizes. We do hope that, over time, the apprenticeship levy’s introduction will lead to greater business engagement with apprenticeship schemes, which in turn will lead to social mobility benefits for the whole country.”