Government kicks off the year with an increase in apprenticeship starts

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  • 66% of manufacturers plan to recruit an engineering apprentice in the next 12 months, and 38% plan to recruit an apprentice outside of engineering

  • One of the major challenges manufacturers face is getting more young people to choose engineering apprentices

  • Provisional data out today shows government is off to a good start on increasing the number of apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are hugely important to manufacturers. We cannot talk about them or praise them enough. Manufacturers have a proven track record of offering high quality apprenticeships – they are arguably the gold standard of apprenticeships.

Showcasing manufacturing apprenticeships

Let's start by showing off....

  • 66% of manufacturers plan to recruit an engineering apprentices in the next 12 months

  • 38% plan to recruit an apprentice outside of engineering apprentice in the next 12 months

  • 75% generally recruit apprentices aged 16-18 years olds

  • Almost a third of manufacturers fund their apprenticeships entirely themselves

  • Three-quarters say their apprentices last up to 4 years on average

  • Three-quarters say ALL their apprentices stay with them upon completion.

Pretty impressive stuff eh?

The barriers to creating even more fantastic apprenticeships

Of course, nothing is ever easy. Manufacturers face barriers to recruiting more apprentices. Monetary cost can be an issue, given a high quality, 4 year engineering apprentice probably costs the average EEF member around £80-90k. There are also issues around the relevance and responsive of provision - some places provision is excellent, others is more than disappointing. And then there is the challenge of getting more, quality, young people choosing an apprenticeship in manufacturing and engineering.

Chart 1: A lack of good quality candidates is a barrier to taking on more apprentices, % companies reporting barriers to recruiting additional apprentices


Source: EEF Skills Survey 2012

The latter is particularly an issue for our members because, as I mentioned above, they go against the national statistics, and massively focus on young people. When asked in Parliament this week about the numbers of 16-19 year olds taking apprenticeships, the Skills Minister said 26% of apprenticeships go this age cohort. Not among our members – it is far higher!

It is for this reason that I moan and groan on the blog about careers advice. I promised myself I would stop blogging on it, then I broke that promise. This week we submitted evidence to the new Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Committee on careers advice, information and guidance. We all seem to agree it’s a problem…but the progress to getting it mixed is pretty slow.

But rather than talk about careers advice, I thought I would shine a light on some of the key statistics released today from the government on apprenticeships. These are the first headline figures for 2015/16, and with a 3million start target to hit, all eyes will be on these, and forthcoming figures to see if their ambition to significantly increase the number of apprenticeships can be achieved.

Highlights from today's statistics release

  • There were 153,100 new starts for the first quarter of 2015/16

  • Of those 31,400 were in engineering and manufacturing

  • Engineering and manufacturing therefore made up 21% of these new starts

  • In the full year 2014/15 manufacturing and engineering apprenticeships made up 15% of starts so our sector has got off to a good start

  • The only sector subject area currently topping manufacturing and engineering is business, admin and law with 38,100 starts so far

Chart 2: Manufacturing and engineering apprenticeships represent 21% to date this year, number of apprenticeship starts by sector subject area for Q1 2015/16 


Source: The Data Service Statistical Release January 2016

  • The North West and the South East have had the most starts in this first quarter (24,920 and 20,010 respectively)

  • It’s the boys who have kicked started most of the apprenticeships overall this first quarter with 53.2% of the new starts male, and 46.8% female.

Good news for the Government?

It’s a pretty good start to the year for the Government. They have a 3million start ambition to meet, so they need to see increases and today’s figures show that they are off to a good start.

Of course, at EEF we are focused on quality not just quantity. So we’re looking to see more advanced, higher and hopefully degree apprenticeships in manufacturing and engineering as the year goes on. It will also be interesting to see whether further information on the forthcoming apprenticeship levy incentivises employers to create more apprenticeships, or whether they will hold back. Only time will tell on that one.

For now, we’ll be encouraging our members to continue to recruit apprentices and to ensure that they remain the gold-standard apprenticeships that as an industry we are proud to talk about. And a big shout out of course to EEF’s own apprentices at our Apprentice Training Centre in Aston, particularly those who have started this year and contributed to today's figures!


Head of Education & Skills Policy

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