Trends in Apprenticeships England and Wales 2021

Apprenticeships are a form of Vocational Educational which have become increasingly popular over the last decade.

Although the number of people doing them has levelled out and declined slightly in recent years around one third of people engaged in Vocational Education in England today are doing an apprenticeship.  

In this post I simply summarise some of the recent trends in Apprenticeships in England and Wales to 2021.

Recent Trends in Apprenticeships

There were just over 250 000 Apprenticeship starts between August 2020 and April 2021, with 657 000 people doing apprenticeships and almost 100 000 people completed apprenticeships achieving a related qualification in the same period.

Taking the longer-term view, there have been almost 2.5 million apprenticeship starts since 2015, and almost 5 million since 2010.

Last year’s figures  are down slightly on the long term trend, which correlates to changes in funding introduced in 2017, although correlation may not mean causation. Some of the recent dip in starts can also be attributed to the Pandemic (like short term declines in many things!).

The number of higher apprenticeships has grown in the last 3 years compared to intermediate apprenticeships. Today, approximately 30% of apprenticeships are advanced, with 20% being intermediate and 20% higher.

Of the apprenticeship starts in the last year –

  • 53000 were aged under 19
  • 74000 were aged 19 -24
  • 125000 were aged 25 and over.

So while you might think that apprenticeships are mainly for the young, half of them are undertaken by adults, presumably undergoing some kind of retraining.

The two main areas in which people do apprenticeships are in business and administration and  health and public services. The next larges category is Engineering, but this is a long way behind the first two….  

Analysis of these statistics

Apprenticeships now make up a significant part of the Vocational landscape, with 5 million people in the UK either doing or having done an apprenticeship, that is around 1 in 7 of the UK Workforce!

The fact that the numbers of apprenticeships is levelling out is probably due to their having reached saturation point – they couldn’t keep on growing forever – eventually the numbers have to plateau because the workforce isn’t constantly increasing, thus you wouldn’t expect the numbers of apprenticeships to increase forever either.

The fact that half of all apprenticeships are taken up by over 25 year olds suggest they are playing a key role in helping people to retrain in later life and change careers. Maybe one of the functions of apprenticeships is that they help workers adapt to an ever-changing postmodern economy with its flexible labour market.  

Apprenticeships also seem to be growing in status, with an increase in the relative number of higher apprenticeships, which are degree level qualifications.

On the other hand, many apprenticeships are also in low-skilled work such as the care sector.

One possible criticisms of the apprenticeship landscape is that there isn’t a huge amount of diversity – the majority of them are in business and administration and public sector/ care work.

But at the end of the day, whatever we think about Apprenticeships they are probably here to stay!

Apprenticeships: find out more

These are the latest apprenticeship statistics

This is a nice data visualisation tool on apprenticeships which will make exploring them further much more fun!

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