Almost a third of apprentices don’t complete their work schemes

The sharpest fall in success rates has been among apprentices aged 19 and over – now just 68.2%. 

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Over 30% of people who start apprenticeships in Britain fail to complete them, and completion rates have got worse annually for the past three years.

The information – analysed by the Financial Times – comes straight from the government’s own official spread sheets on apprenticeship success rates.

The success rate for all apprenticeships was 68.9% in 2013-14, the latest year for which figures are available. This has declined since 2010-11, when it was 76.4%

If the success rate stays as it is, the government’s three million target will actually equate to just over two million successfully completed apprenticeships.

This raises questions about the quality of apprenticeships in the UK, as well as figures touted by the Conservative government: its goal is to create three million new apprenticeships by 2020, but if only apprenticeship starts are counted (rather than successfully completed schemes), this could be seen as a meaningless figure.

Neil Carberry, the director for employment and skills at the CBI business lobby group, told the Financial Times that the statistics were “a timely reminder that while the government targets three million starts, it’s completions that matter to companies and participants”.

He said businesses wanted to see more “high quality” apprenticeships that were routes to good careers.

The sharpest fall in success rates was among apprentices aged 19 and over, which fell 4.4% in the latest year alone – to just 68.2%. The success rate for under-19s fell 0.4% to 71.1%.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills said the government had not published any research into exactly why the success rates were deteriorating.

However, it suggested it could actually be linked to the government’s attempt to improve standards. In August 2012 it changed the rules so that apprenticeships had to last at least 12 months and involve some off-the-job training.

“Our reforms mean apprenticeships are now more rigorously tested, last longer and are more responsive to the skills needs of industry,” the DBIS said.

The news comes after Ofsted published a critical assessment of the apprenticeship system last year, saying too many employers and providers had been using apprenticeships (funded by the tax-payer) to accredit existing employees for skills like making coffee and cleaning floors.

There are, of course, plenty of high quality apprenticeships available (and many apprentices who successfully complete their schemes); AllAboutSchoolLeavers lists high quality apprenticeships on its jobs board

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