Only 2% of young people in UK take apprenticeships, says OECD

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.
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The report says apprenticeships 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 UK’s “Neet rate” – the proportion of young people who are not in education, employment or training – is slightly below the OECD average.

Despite acknowledging 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. 

However, the Department of Education has released provisional figures showing a rise in the number of people reaping the benefits of apprenticeships with around 905,000 people in an apprenticeship this year alone.

A 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.”

Skills and Apprenticeships Minister Robert Halfon said: “Apprenticeships work, that’s why they lie at the heart of our commitment to giving everyone the chance they deserve to get the skills and jobs they need for their future.

“It is great news that there are more apprentices and trainees than ever before. I am determined that we build on this success so that everyone who wants to can benefit from the ladder of opportunity they offer.”

Just under 27,000 higher and degree apprenticeships were started so far in 2015 to 2016. 

The figures also show that there are more young people starting apprenticeships, with over 130,000 starts by under 19-year-olds during the 2015 to 2016 academic year.

Alan Mak MP, the chair of the Entrepreneurship APPG, spoke of the importance of apprenticeships on Monday night at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.

“We all know that apprenticeships are good for workers because it improves their skills, good for productivity and good for the companies involved” stated Mak, speaking at the Apprenticeships Forum reception. “Our job this week is to spread the message across the whole country into every sector, into every industry, into every region, into every nation of the United Kingdom.”

He added: “We all have a duty to try and boost apprenticeships and spread their profile.”


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