Putting Apprenticeships to Work for Young People

Jenna Julius, Henry Faulkner-Ellis and Sharon O'Donnell

16 June 2021

This research examines the impact of the apprenticeships reforms on SMEs and on young people, against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. It also considers to what extent the apprenticeship programme needs to be refocused in order to ensure that − as we continue to emerge from the pandemic − the apprenticeship system is working to support young people and SMEs.

Key Findings

  • Apprenticeship starts across learners of all ages fell by a fifth between 2015/16 and 2018/19, and were driven by a rapid decline in intermediate and advanced apprenticeships offered by small and medium sized employers (SMEs).
  • The decline in apprenticeship starts between 2015/16 and 2018/19 among the most disadvantaged apprentices was 30 per cent, compared to three per cent among the least disadvantaged apprentices.
  • Apprenticeship reforms have also particularly impacted young learners. This is mainly because older apprentices are more likely to be doing higher level apprenticeships, which have substantially increased in numbers since the reforms.
  • Government reforms led to an increase in apprenticeship starts in London, while apprenticeship starts fell in all other regions of the country.
  • The pandemic had a substantial impact on apprenticeship starts, which declined by almost half (47 per cent) between March and July 2020 compared to the same period in the previous year.
  • Apprenticeship starts among deprived and younger learners have continued to decline disproportionately as a result of the pandemic.
  • Latest data suggests apprenticeship starts for young apprentices and intermediate level apprenticeships remain far below pre-pandemic levels.