Apprenticeship scheme branded a failure in Lancashire as numbers drop

The number of apprenticeships started by people in Lancashire has dropped to the lowest level since a Government shake-up of the system, figures show.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 7:00 am
All areas of Lancashire need apprentices
All areas of Lancashire need apprentices

HR body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development says a national drop in new starts shows the apprenticeship levy introduced in 2017 has “failed on all key measures”.

Department for Education data shows people living in Lancashire started 8,310 apprenticeships in the 2019-20 academic year.

That was down by a fifth from 10,410 in the previous year, and a 41 per cent fall from the 14,030 in 2016-17, when the levy came into effect.

Across England, 322,500 apprenticeships started last year – dropping by 18 per cent from 393,400 in 2018-19, and more than a third from 494,900 in 2016-17.

Critics say the apprenticeship levy – a tax larger businesses pay towards a national fund for the training of apprentices – has caused confusion for employers.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced changes to apprenticeships as part of his Budget, including more cash for businesses for each apprenticeship started.

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Blackpool-headquartered Federation of Small Businesses, which has been critical of the levy, said: “It’s important to increase employment incentives as the current level of support is not leading to enough starts.”

Apprenticeships aim to provide on-the-job training to get people into employment after education.

The DfE said it will make improvements to the apprenticeship levy in response to employers’ feedback.

The DfE cautioned that the latest figures – which cover the academic year from August to July – were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

But it said the number of apprenticeships started across England in the academic year up to March 22 last year was still seven per cent lower compared to the same period in 2018-19.

In Lancashire, small businesses – those with fewer than 50 employees – took on 36 per cent of apprenticeship placements in 2019-20, compared with 44 per cent in 2016-17.