Lisa Stone. Careers Writers Association

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Apprenticeship Reforms and the Future

If your son or daughter is considering taking an apprenticeship then there has never been a better time. Reforms have made apprenticeships a more attractive option and increasing numbers of employers are offering apprenticeship programmes to a growing number of school leavers.

Much of the information below is directed at young people who are based in England. However, there are similar schemes in the rest of the UK and you can find out more at:

The 2020 vision

The Government’s vision is to increase the quantity of apprenticeships in England - reaching 3 million starting one by 2020 - and to improve the quality of apprenticeships, making them more relevant to industry. Large numbers of young people are becoming apprentices, with approximately 815,000 participating in an apprenticeship in 2017 to 2018. Over 3.8 million apprenticeships were started between 2010/11 and 2017/18, with 2.1 million of these completed.

Apprenticeship reforms

Apprenticeship reforms have been underway since October 2013. Groups of employers, known as ‘Trailblazers’, have been working together to design new world-class apprenticeship standards that respond to the needs of their industries. The standards show what an apprentice will be doing and the skills required of them, by job role. Many large and small employers are involved in designing the new apprenticeship standards in a wide variety of industry sectors; there have been almost 700 apprenticeship standards published so far and there are many more on the way.

Since May 2017 all new apprenticeships have been based on the modern standards with the government planning to phase out the old frameworks by the start of the 2020/21 academic year. Standards represented nearly 60 per cent of all starts reported in the first half of 2018/19. With the new standards, the quality of apprenticeships is being improved through higher expectations of English and maths, more rigorous testing to ensure the apprentice is fully competent and raising aspirations for participants by introducing grading at the end of their apprenticeship. The new apprenticeships are in a broad range of sectors from banking to law, fashion and the nuclear and defence industries.

Why apprenticeships are working

The apprenticeships programme provides proven benefits to both employers and apprentices. For apprentices, it can equip them with the skills, knowledge and experience needed to pursue a successful career. For employers, it offers a highly effective means of developing skills within the workforce.

Recent statistics from the Learners and Apprentices Survey 2018 published by the Department of Education show:

71% feel that they have a higher chance of earning a better wage in the future

• 80% felt that their chances of going onto higher levels of training have increased

• 90% who completed their apprenticeship will go on to get a full or part time job (compared to 70% prior to taking up the apprenticeship).

The future for apprenticeships

The reforms have made apprenticeships an increasingly popular career choice, with approximately 1.8 million online apprenticeship applications made between March 2015 to end of 2018. Apprenticeships offer a genuine alternative to going to university and, through higher and degree apprenticeships, the opportunity to combine an apprenticeship with higher education. In October 2018, the Office for Students reported that ‘Degree apprenticeships are on the increase, as more employers, colleges and universities, students and parents realise their advantages. There are nearly 6,000 apprentices at levels 6 and 7, many of these are degree apprentices.’ These include job roles ranging from legal services to banking, nursing and engineering. Apprenticeships are seen as key to delivering the technical and professional skilled workforce that employers need, so every apprenticeship will be a high quality opportunity that delivers the skills, knowledge and behaviours that employers are looking for. The apprenticeship reforms will support an increase in the quality and quantity of apprenticeships so that more individuals can benefit from apprenticeship programmes in the future. The future for apprenticeships looks bright!

Where can I find out more?

There are different levels of apprenticeships covering a growing number of occupations and industries. You can read about what types of industries and companies offer apprenticeships in our article ‘Who offers Apprenticeships?’. For more general information about apprenticeships take a look at our articles ‘Apprenticeships and Traineeships’ and ‘Higher Apprenticeships’. All these articles contain links to useful websites where you can find out more about apprenticeships and apprenticeship opportunities.

For more detailed information about the reforms and facts about apprenticeships, see:

Further education and skills - Apprenticeships

English Apprenticeships: Our 2020 Vision

Apprenticeship standards: list of occupations available

© Caroline Barker, March 2017 (edited and revised by Lisa Stone, August 2019)