Apprenticeships: 8 things we learned from DfE surveys

Apprentices' satisfaction rates have fallen by 3 percentage points since 2017, according to new DfE data
26th March 2020, 10:24am


Apprenticeships: 8 things we learned from DfE surveys
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The level of satisfaction of apprentices and their employers with their training has been brought into focus today as the Department for Education published results of the 2018-19 learner and employers surveys. 

The surveys asked apprentices how much training they had completed, if they were likely to gain employment after completing the apprenticeship and what skills they had gained. Employers were asked why they chose to recruit apprentices, how many they retained in their business after the course and which levels of apprenticeships they offered.

Here's what we learned:


How many go into full-time work?

Moe than 90 per cent of those who had completed an apprenticeship were in work - and 73 per cent were in full-time employment, an increase of 2 percentage points in both cases since 2017.

Younger apprenticeship completers were less likely to be in work: 89 per cent of those under 19, compared with 96 per cent of those 25 or older. 

Female completers were less likely to be in full-time work, with 71 per cent compared with 82 per cent of men. 

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How satisfied are apprentices?

A total of 86 per cent of apprentices were satisfied with their apprenticeship, and 7 per cent were dissatisfied. Among those who were dissatisfied, a lack of support or contact from training providers was the most common issue, followed by poor organisation and poor quality of training. 

However, satisfaction varied by level - degree apprentices were the most likely to be satisfied at 94 per cent while level 5 and level 6+ non-degree apprentices were the least satisfied (78 per cent and 72 per cent respectively). 

By subject area, overall satisfaction was highest among science apprentices (94 per cent). Arts (79 per cent) and education (81 per cent) apprentices had the lowest proportion satisfied. 

Satisfaction has fallen compared with 2017, when 89 per cent were satisfied and 5 per cent were dissatisfied.

How many didn't complete off-the-job training?

More than 80 per cent of apprentices reported undertaking some formal training as part of their apprenticeship. The DfE says this suggests that roughly one-fifth of apprenticeships in the 2018-19 survey did not meet the requirement to provide off-the-job training. 

This proportion has fallen 4 percentage points since the 2017 survey, in which 86 per cent of apprentices reported undertaking some formal training. 

Do learners believe they benefit from their apprenticeship?

The apprentices in the 2018-19 survey were less positive than those surveyed in 2017 about the benefits gained through an apprenticeship, with fewer reporting gaining English skills (61 per cent compared with 64 per cent in 2017), maths skills (56 per cent compared with 60 per cent 2017) and IT skills (57 per cent compared with 63 per cent in 2017).

Fewer felt very likely to complete their apprenticeship (80 per cent compared with 87 per cent in 2017).


Who hired the most apprentices?

Small workplaces were the biggest apprentice employers: the majority of apprentice employers had fewer than 25 employees (60 per cent) - but the majority only had one apprentice complete their training in the sample window (68 per cent). Both of these figures were in line with 2017. 

Health and social work was the single largest sector employing apprentices, accounting for 25 per cent of apprentice employers, up from 22 per cent in 2017. 

A number of other sectors accounted for around one in 10 apprentice employers: wholesale and retail (12 per cent), education (10 per cent) and construction (9 per cent). None of these showed a change since 2017.

Just under a quarter (23 per cent) of employers interviewed were relatively new to apprenticeships, having offered them for three years or less, a reduction on 2017 (29 per cent), suggesting a slowing of the growth in the number of employers involved.

Why were apprenticeships offered?

Around 30 per cent of employers who had started providing apprenticeships in the past five years did so because they thought it was a good way to up-skill existing staff and/or to recruit new staff 

A total of 16 per cent said they offered apprenticeships to help young people.

Meanwhile, 15 per cent of employers likely to be paying the levy said the levy was a reason for choosing apprenticeships over other forms of training.

How many retained the apprentices?

Employers were less likely to be retaining apprentices at the end of their apprenticeship than they were in 2017. 

Only 70 per cent had any of their completer apprentices still working for them at the time of the survey, 15 to 21 months after their completion, compared with 76 per cent in 2017. 

Some 58 per cent reported that all of their completer apprentices were still with the company, compared with 65 per cent in 2017.

How many offered higher-level apprenticeships?

One in five apprentice employers had never heard of higher-level apprenticeships, and 21 per cent knew them by name only.

Just over a third of apprenticeship employers were either providing or planning to provide apprenticeships at level 4 and 5. Seven per cent were providing or planning level 6+ non-degree apprenticeships at level 6 or 7.

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