Skills minister Anne Milton has insisted that the government's commitment to high-quality apprenticeships is more important than meeting its target of 3 million apprentices by 2020.
The apparent softening of the government's commitment to the target comes as figures released today show a continued fall with 232,700 apprenticeship starts between August 2017 and February 2018 – down by 25 per cent from the equivalent period in 2016-17.
In The Times today, the skills minister writes: “We won’t sacrifice that quality just to meet the target that was set. It is critical that both apprentices and employers have confidence in an apprenticeship, whether it is at level 2 or level 7. Apprenticeships must be high quality.”
Ms Milton adds: “When we do reach that 3 million number, I will be proud that they will be 3 million genuinely high-quality apprenticeships that will change the lives of apprentices and businesses in this country.”
The latest intervention by the minister comes after she confessed to the Lords Economic Affairs Select Committee in March that she had "absolutely no idea” where the 3 million target came from.
In January 2017 the government said it was on track to hit its target of 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020. But since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, the number of apprenticeship starts has dramatically declined.