Apprenticeship-levyVocational training experts agree that the current system will not deliver the quality apprenticeships necessary.

Radical reforms are needed to raise the quality of apprenticeships and ensure they are regarded as a genuine alternative to university, highlights a new report from the CIPD.

The findings are based on a collection of essays written by a range of experts on vocational training that explore the deep-lying problems around apprenticeship provision in the UK.

These weaknesses mean that six in every ten apprenticeships created in the UK are only at Level 2, equivalent to just GCSE five passes. In addition, the percentage of apprenticeship starts for people aged under 25 has dropped significantly from 99.8 percent of all apprenticeships to 57 percent in the last decade, while just one fifth of starts at Level 3 were reserved for 16-24 year olds in 2014-15.

The CIPD’s report shows that while the number of under-25-year olds starting an apprenticeship has increased by 24 percent since 2010, the number of over-25s increased by 336 percent.

The number of over-60s grew by 753 percent, from just 400 in 2009–10, to 3,410 in 2014–15.The report finds that the use of apprenticeships to meet the training needs of low-paid (and typically older employees) undermines their role as a structured route into skilled work for those entering the labour market for the first time.

The CIPD paper concludes that the Government’s target of achieving three million apprenticeship starts by 2020 and the planned introduction of an apprenticeship levy in its current form, are likely to further undermine apprenticeship quality.While recent reforms, including requiring apprenticeships to have a minimum duration of 12 months, more on and off-the-job training and a new assessment system are welcome, they are unlikely to address the underlying weaknesses in the apprenticeship system, according to the report.

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development said:

“This in-depth analysis of the UK’s apprenticeship system suggests there is still a long way to go before the majority of apprenticeships in the UK really do provide a meaningful, high-quality vocational pathway into employment that is a genuine alternative to university.“

The focus on hitting the three million target threatens to further undermine quality, and, while the new Trailblazer frameworks have enabled some employers to develop bespoke apprenticeships that suit their skills needs, they are unlikely to be expanded beyond a relatively small proportion of typically larger organisations.

“The report also makes clear that if we are to have an apprenticeship levy at all then we will need to make it far more flexible, otherwise we risk undermining the quality of apprenticeships further. The CIPD has already called for a delay in the introduction of the levy because we are concerned that rushing it through will have damaging, unintended consequences.“

.“We need to build more strategic partnerships between education and training providers and employers at a local level, which are focused on ensuring learners develop the skills employers need both now and as skills requirements change.”


To hear specialist advice and commentary on the topical apprenticeship debate, attend our conference this December and learn from an insightful programme designed for HR professionals to enhance apprenticeship and school leavers programmes.





Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.