Apprenticeships might be going to the wrong People

  • Emma Finamore
  • Last updated 19 Jun 2015

New research claims that apprenticeship programmes might not be benefitting the key groups they’re intended for. 


Almost 45% of all new apprentices are over 25, and almost 70% of level 2 and 3 apprentices are people who were already employed by the company they’re training with, according to a report published earlier this month.

IPPR  - a thinktank and registered charity – published the figures in Learner drivers: Local authorities and apprenticeships. It found that since 2010, 42% of starting apprentices have been over the age of 25, rather than being young people finding their way into work. 

The report also said that two-thirds of apprentices (67%) at level 2 or level 3 are people who were already employed by their company, rather than new recruits.

The report also raised a number of other concerns, including:

- A significant proportion of companies are failing to comply with the apprenticeship minimum wage

- There appears to be a mismatch between the apprenticeships people want to take on and the vacancies available

- There is a particular concern over the poor quality of some apprenticeships – particularly in certain sectors and with certain providers – and falling success rates since 2010/11.

Luke Raikes, a research fellow at IPPR North, is the report’s author. “There are many reasons why such a high proportion of new apprentices are older,” he said. “A previous scheme for those in work called ‘Train to Gain’ was wrapped up, and its funding was switched to apprenticeships by the last coalition government.

“In many cases employers are accrediting staff for skills they already have and calling it an ‘apprenticeship’ – clearly this favours older people. Also, given that those older than 25 tend to be more employable at first, it’s easier for employers to recruit them.”

Luke thinks that because of this, funding intended for the young and unemployed is actually being directed towards older people. “It represents a missed opportunity for young people to get the investment they to develop their vocational skills,” he said.

“Good quality apprenticeships can set young people off on a really successful career, and so having apprenticeship funding so poorly targeted will have an impact on their earnings and employability for the rest of their life.”

To tackle this, Luke thinks apprenticeships should be primarily restricted to young school leavers. “It’s really important that older people who are already employed still get trained,” he said. “But this shouldn’t be an apprenticeship, and they should be developing new skills, not just getting accredited for the skills they already have.”


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