Apprenticeships seem to be all the rage at present. There were 140,500 entrants into this form of training during the first six months of this academic year, starting from August 1, 2008. Apprenticeships now comprise those at level 2 and the more advanced level 3 versions.
Most readers will have a notion that these are for new entrants to a skill, but also that they are for young people. The former is still true; the latter is no longer the case. Of those who started an apprenticeship between last August and the end of January this year, 31,000 were aged 25 or older when they signed up. This is a significant increase on the 4,100 over-25s who signed up during the same period in 2007-08.
But there was a fall in the number of 16 to 18-year-olds signed up for apprenticeships in the first sixth months of this year: down from 69,400 to 63,700, with a larger decline in level 2 apprenticeship enrolments than for the level 3 advanced apprenticeships. The number of 19 to 24-year-olds enrolled rose, but by nowhere near as much as the increase among the over-25s.
The increase in the over-25s signing up may reflect the early stages of recession, but it doesn't explain the fall in 16 to 18-year-olds being signed up when the numbers in the age group are rising. Only time will tell whether the missing youngsters have decided to remain in schools and colleges or are out looking for work. But the number of 16 to 17-year-olds shown as unemployed by the Government rose between August 2008 and January 2009, by about 11,000.
John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.