Apprenticeship starts: falling for under 19’s

This data is taken from the DfE November release

The latest figures from the Department for Education show that 393,400 apprenticeship starts have been reported in 2018/19, compared with 375,800 in 2017/18, an overall increase of 4.7 per cent.

Whilst apprenticeships have grown slightly in the last year they remain 22.8 per cent below the number in 2015/16 (509,400) prior to introduction of the apprenticeship levy.

When we break the data down we see that apprenticeship starts have been growing markedly for those 25 years old+ and slightly for those 19 – 24 but apprenticeship starts for under 19s are still falling.

Starts on higher apprenticeships (Level 4 and above) increased by 55.9 per cent to 75,100 compared to 48,200 in 2017/18. 80.9 per cent of starts in 2018/19 were either intermediate (Level 2) or advanced (Level 3) apprenticeships, this compares to 87.2 per cent in 2017/18. Starts at Level 6 and above doubled to 22,500 in 2018/19 from 10,900 in 2017/18. 24.8 per cent of starts (97,700) were for learners aged under 19 and 75.2 per cent (295,700) were aged 19 and over. There have been 1.9 million apprenticeship starts since May 2015 and 4.3 million starts since May 2010.


There were 14,900 traineeship starts in 2018/19, a decrease from 17,700 (16.3 per cent) in 2017/18. 81.2 per cent of learners who started a traineeship in the first two quarters of 2018/19 completed them by the end of the year (completion rates for the provisional full academic year will be published in March 2020, with final figures published in November 2020).

The provisional full year completion rate for traineeships started in 2017/18 was 77.1 per cent (published in March 2019). Using final 2018/19 data for these 2017/18 starts, gives a final 2017/18 completion rate of 79.1 per cent. This is 0.8 percentage points higher than the completion rate of 78.3 per cent for traineeships started in 2016/17.

The completion rate for learners starting traineeships between 2014/15 and 2017/18 has increased year on year. 24.9 per cent of traineeships started in the 2017/18 academic year led to an apprenticeship start before the end of 2018/19. This is a 0.4 percentage-point fall from the conversion rate seen for traineeship starts in 2016/17 (25.3 per cent).

Our View

We are very concerned about the continued fall in Apprenticeship Starts for young people, especially around Level 2 provision. As is clear in our Manifesto for Youth Employment, apprenticeships are no longer working for the young people who need them the most.

 In 2015, 36% of 16 year olds did not achieve qualifications up to Level 2 . Children receiving free school meals (FSM) are twice as likely to leave school without Level 2 attainment versus their non-FSM peers . Worse still, attainment gaps between special needs education (SEN) pupils and non-SEN pupils by age 19, have risen from 26% in 2015 to 33% in 2018 . With this volume of young people leaving education without a Level 2 qualification, it is imperative that a non-academic pathway is protected for them. 

Extract from our Manifesto for Youth Employment

The government are blocking young people from accessing quality apprenticeship routes, with the Level 2 Business Administration Apprenticeship being just one example of this. The IFATE and DfE both refuse to sign off this apprenticeship, despite the clear evidence of demand that has been put forward from the group working to get this standard approved.  Business Administration has historically been the most popular intermediate apprenticeship, accounting for 16% of all level 2 starts in 2016/17 with 12,550 under 19’s starting the apprenticeship. Until Level 2 apprenticeships are adequately funded and signed off  we will continue to see apprenticeship starts fall for under 19’s.

As youth unemployment figures have slowly risen in the last two quarters, despite overall employment being at the highest levels on record, any new incoming government must take action to ensure that there is adequate funding and support for apprenticeships for young people in order to ensure that no one is left behind.

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