The fall in apprentice starts following the introduction of the levy was "the calm before the storm", an industry expert says.
Government figures show that immediately after the introduction of the apprenticeship levy last April, the number of apprenticeship starts fell by 59 per cent.
Now a survey of HR professionals has shown that a third view apprentices as the most valuable source of talent this year. But just under half of the 2,000 respondents said university graduates were still the favoured talent pool for entry-level recruits.
'The tide is shifting'
Sandrine Miller, the head of emerging talent consulting at Alexander Mann Solutions, which ran the survey, said business leaders were reassessing where they source fresh talent.
She added: “News that new apprenticeship starts have fallen by 59 per cent since the apprenticeship levy was introduced is most likely indicative of how businesses are reassessing long-term needs – and taking the time they need to plan, and implement new programmes. In other words, it’s the calm before the storm.
“While graduates remain the preferred choice for the highest percentage of businesses, there are signs that the tide is shifting. HR leaders are increasingly considering the benefits of developing talent in-house, where the role allows, as part of a wider total workforce strategy.”