The number of apprenticeships is "not growing at a pace we would like", the Association of Employment and Leaning Providers (AELP) has warned, with sluggish progress among 19- to 24-year-olds a particular cause for concern.
The warning comes as the government has insisted that new figures released today suggest it is on track to hit its target of creating 3 million apprenticeship starts during the current Parliament. This equates to 600,000 starts per year, and the latest figures show the number of people starting apprenticeships in the past three months reached 150,000.
Every region in England has had at least 11,000 apprenticeship starts in the past three months. Skills minister Nick Boles said: “Young people today have more doors open to them than ever before. Today’s figures show that savvy young people see apprenticeships as a fast-track to a successful career. Apprenticeships are real jobs that combine studying with hands on experience in the workplace.
“Apprenticeships and traineeships are creating the highly skilled and productive workforce that is supporting our country’s economic growth. We are on the right track to delivering 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.”
But AELP chief executive Stewart Segal expressed concern about the new figures. "Adjustment of the provisional data for 2015-16 may lead later to better figures, but we are concerned that the programme is not growing at a pace we would like and in particular for 19- to 24-year-olds," he said. "We feel that delays in responding to providers’ growth requests at the end of last year and now in respect of 16-18 apprenticeships this year are bound to be a factor in limiting any acceleration in growth and this needs to be addressed if the overall picture across all ages and all levels is going to improve.
"Not all 19-plus growth requests during this year have been approved and we are still waiting on the 16-18 responses as well which is a real concern when we are already halfway through the year."