Only two per cent of young people in UK take apprenticeships, says OECD

Levels of low literacy and numeracy found among young adults in the UK were among the worst in Europe, says the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

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The proportion of young people who are engaged in apprenticeships in the UK is less than a seventh of that in Germany,  according to a new international report.

The Society at a Glance 2016 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), published this morning, also reveals that, out of the 22 countries it compares, only two reported higher levels of low literacy and numeracy than the UK.

Apprenticeships, the report says, are a “useful way of bridging the gap between school and employment for youth”, particularly those with lower education levels. However, it says that the apprenticeship participation rate in the UK is less than 2 per cent, compared to over 9 per cent in Denmark and 15 per cent in Germany.

“Increasing apprenticeship rates would help more practically-minded students into the workforce,” the report says. The UK is one of the few countries “in which literacy and numeracy skills have deteriorated between the older and younger generation”, it adds.

In the UK, the rate of 18-29 year olds with poor literacy skills was 18 per cent in 2012, compared with an OECD average of 10.8 per cent. Only in Spain (18.2 per cent) and Italy (19.7) was the rate higher.

The rate of young people with poor numeracy skills was 25.4 per cent, again the third highest behind the United States (29 per cent) and Italy (25.9 per cent) - and almost ten percentage points above than the OECD average of 15.5 per cent.

The UK’s “Neet rate” – the proportion of young people who are not in education, employment or training, is slightly below the OECD average. Despite acknowleding recent improvements, the report states that the level of Neets is still higher than that in the best-performing nations, such as Germany. “Furthermore, close to two-thirds of this Neet group are inactive i.e. not even looking for a job”, the report adds. 

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are clear that apprenticeships create a ladder of opportunity for young people while ensuring businesses have the skills that they need. That’s why this government is doubling investment in apprenticeships and, through the new levy, £2.5 billion will be invested in apprenticeships by 2019-20 – twice what was spent in 2010-11.

“We have seen 2.9 million apprenticeship starts since May 2010 and the number of 16- to 24-year-olds who are not in education, employment or training is its lowest for the time of year since 2001.”

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