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Apprenticeship numbers continue to fall

02 May 2018

With another fall in the numbers of apprenticeships announced for the start of 2018, further doubt has been cast on the effectiveness of the Apprenticeship Levy.

Introduced to assist the government's drive to raise numbers to 3m new apprentices by 2020, industry commentators believe it has had the opposite effect.

Figures released by the Department for Education (DfE) showed numbers had fallen to 194,100 in the first half of the academic year, with another update due in November.

Criticism of the Apprenticeship Levy has included claims that it is too difficult for companies to engage with and access funding, leading to the CBI calling for the scheme to be scrapped.

Following the latest DfE figures, however, Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) president Tim Hopkinson has provided an alternative view.

"The figures are disappointing, but apprenticeships are going through a time of unprecedented change," he said.

In addition to the Apprenticeship Levy, employers are also going through change and Mr Hopkinson said "too many training providers still deliver courses that are simply not relevant to the modern workplace".

He further stated that many SME businesses were "just starting to get their heads around the funding . . . and the impact of larger employers passing on a share of their funds to supply chain partners has not kicked in yet. That could be a game-changer," said Mr Hopkinson.

He called for more support and "training designed by employers for employers", with the New Standard apprenticeships supported by "more fleet-footed course providers" and said the DfE should intervene to make sure courses were practical and effective.

Mr Hopkinson said there should be renewed focus on ensuring that employers can access funding and his comments were further supported by BESA training manager Tony Howard, who called for the DfE to make the system more flexible by increasing funding for training providers delivering specific courses for industry needs.

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