The number of apprenticeship starts increased by over 60 per cent in the final quarter of 2017-18, compared to the same period the previous year, according to new figures from the Department for Education.
According to the data, only 48,000 starts were recorded in that quarter of 2016-17 - right after the introduction of the apprenticeship levy. This year, there were 77,800.
The figures remain significantly below those of previous years, however. In quarter 4 of 2015-16, 117,800 apprenticeship starts were recorded, and that figure stood at 115,300 for the same period in 2014-15.
Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, raised concerns over a drop in the number of opportunities for lower level apprentices.
He said: "We want apprenticeships to grow at all levels, but major mistakes in the implementation of the levy have resulted in a serious undermining of the government’s social mobility agenda. The crash in the number of opportunities for levels 2 and for young people is simply disastrous when the onus is now on us to train up our own homegrown talent. Level 2 starts are now the biggest issue we face."
He added: "The official admission that the levy pot is running dry means that a full and open debate is needed on how the levy reforms are taken forward so that businesses of all sizes, and not just the levy payers, can start restoring the lower level apprenticeships that have been lost around the country."
Last August, the first year-on-year increase in monthly starts since the levy was introduced was confirmed by new Department for Education figures, marking the end of a protracted period of worsening year-on-year drops in the previous months.