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Gloucestershire Business News

Apprenticeships fall by a quarter

The number of people starting a training programme under the government's new apprenticeship scheme has fallen, according to the latest figures from the National Audit Office (NAO).

The NAO said the government was very unlikely to hit its 2020 target of 3m new starts, as reported by the BBC. The NAO also said that the government had some way to go before it could show that the scheme was good value for money.

The government radically changed the apprenticeship system two year ago, introducing the apprenticeship levy for large employers, which they can then claim back to fund training.

Since the introduction of the levy, the number of apprenticeships has fallen by more than a quarter, with many small firms giving up on schemes and larger ones failing to even claim back the money they paid in, leaving £2bn unspent.

Many large firms see the apprenticeship levy as little more than an extra tax on their wage bill, while many small companies are reluctant to let their apprentices go to college once a week.

As a result, despite the fact that many young people are only too keen to be paid to study, rather than running up student debts at college or university, the number starting apprenticeships has slumped.

Just before the new scheme was introduced, there were 509,400 new apprentice a year; last year there were just 375,800, down by 26 per cent.

There has also been a decline in the lower-level apprenticeships and a rise in the higher, degree equivalent ones. This suggests companies may be abandoning apprenticeships aimed mainly at school leavers with weaker exam results.

The government says it will continue to work with employers to help them develop their apprenticeship programmes.

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