The proportion of teachers who would rarely or never advise a high-performing student to opt for an apprenticeship.
How much more than many graduates the best apprentices can earn over their lifetime.
The proportion of young people on a level 2 apprenticeship who progress to level 3.
Twice as many degree apprentices are from the wealthiest areas compared to the poorest.
Better careers advice
High-quality apprenticeships offer young people the opportunity to ‘earn while you learn’, gain valuable skills and get a foot on the career ladder. Yet too many young people do not know enough about apprenticeships and the career prospects they can offer them.
There should be a stronger drive from government to support and encourage employers to improve the quality and availability of apprenticeships for young people, and for young people to take them up. Careers advice in schools should be clearer about the potential careers, salaries and progression prospects from taking an apprenticeship in different sectors.
More higher and degree-level apprenticeships
Disadvantaged young people are substantially less likely than their better-off peers to take up the best apprenticeships, and for those who do choose an apprenticeship, they are more likely to be working in a low-quality setting with little career progression.
There should be more higher and degree-level apprenticeships, targeted at younger age groups, to give young people a platform for progression to higher level learning and careers.
Improve the levy
In 2017, the government introduced the apprenticeship levy, a compulsory tax on large employers to help fund the development and delivery of apprenticeships. Businesses can use the levy to pay for training for apprenticeships.
In order for apprenticeships to deliver on their social mobility potential, social mobility and widening opportunity should be an explicit criterion in a review of the apprenticeships levy. The spending of levy money on access activities should be both permitted and promoted and better data should be captured on the socioeconomic background of apprentices.
The majority of apprenticeship starts are at levels 2 and 3, which is equivalent to GCSE and A-levels. Progression to higher level qualifications is crucial to the workplace prospects of young people, yet too often they run into an invisible ceiling.
Progression for those beginning on lower level apprenticeships should be seamless and automatic so that young people don’t drop out before getting a good quality apprenticeship.
As of October 2020, employers reported that just 31% had continued their apprenticeships without disruption since the beginning of the pandemic.
Nearly half of apprentices had been, or were still, furloughed in October 2020.
One in three apprentice employers expected to hire fewer or no apprentices at all over the coming year.
Support for employers
The unique position of apprenticeships – which combine education, training and employment – has made the sector particularly vulnerable to the current health crisis. Many employers have faced serious challenges due to economic downturn and this has the potential to impact on the number of apprenticeship opportunities available. As well as a being a valuable route to social mobility, apprenticeships can play a key role in economic recovery, so it is vital that numbers do not fall.
The government’s introduction of financial incentives for employers to hire new apprentices is welcome. With the new lockdown in 2021, these incentives should be extended past March to ensure that employers continue to be supported and encouraged to hire apprentices.
A key barrier to apprenticeship take-up is often a lack of awareness and information on the apprenticeship route. Information, advice and guidance for young people considering apprenticeships is therefore vital and should be protected during the pandemic and beyond.
While young people are missing out on face-to-face- support and open days, outreach from employers, and support from schools and colleges should continue and be moved online where possible.
With the likelihood of limited funding in the future, it is even more vital that apprenticeship levy funding is focused in the right direction. The government should consider a maximum salary ceiling for levy-funded apprentices, ensuring that levy funding is not being spent on highly-paid and well-qualified senior staff.
Other measures to reduce the strain on levy funding should also be considered, for instance, requiring employers to ‘top up’ levy funding for certain categories of apprentice, or otherwise incentivising apprenticeships most conducive to increasing opportunities for groups who need it most.