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A new report released this week has revealed the disastrous state of apprenticeship provision in England. Education think-tank EDSK reported that nearly half (47%) of all apprentices in England dropped out of their training last year. Pointing to a widespread issue in apprentice training, 70% of trainees who drop out cite poor program quality as a factor. A massive part of England’s work-integrated-learning industry, apprenticeship provision may have a serious problem. 

40 per cent of apprentices report feeling unsatisfied with their training.

Common concerns include:

  • a lack of support from their training provider
  • badly organised programs
  • a poor quality of training

The EDSK investigation follows another grim report released earlier this year. Apprenticeship Data Insights revealed that last year, Ofsted graded apprenticeship provision in England as ‘requiring improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ in a third of cases. This means workplace apprenticeships provide the poorest quality of all Further Education types. Not a nice title for the industry to achieve.   

Vocational Education and Training (VET), plays a crucial role in providing jobs, enhancing lives and boosting the UK economy.

Recent OECD data reveals that more than 25% of 18-29 year olds in the UK are NEET, neither employed, nor in formal education or training.

Failing Responsibilities   

The data undeniably indicates that training providers are failing in their responsibility to trainees. While a large majority of work integrated learning programs in England are provided through FE colleges and private providers, Higher Education Institutions have been providing degree apprenticeships since 2015. Ofsted data from 2021/2022 indicates that many level 6 and level 7 apprenticeships provided by HE institutions are also reporting low achievement rates. Since 2021, apprenticeship provision in HEIs is subject to the same Ofsted inspections as in other providers. This places a new responsibility on HEIs to meet non-traditional standards and expectations.

Construction Student Apprenticeship on Building Site for off-campus professional accreditation management.

Recommendations for improvement   

The recommendations in the EDSK report for improving apprenticeship provision revolve around creating a better experience for apprentices and creating a better system for delivering apprenticeships. Importantly, apprenticeship regulators such as Ofsted need to do more to ensure training providers are meeting their responsibilities. One of the key recommendations includes a ban on any training provider who does not meet the government’s definition of a high-quality apprenticeship.  

This heightens accountability for apprenticeship providers to deliver quality training programs that foster student success. Providers need to have the right systems and support in place for trainees to progress and succeed in their learning. Furthermore, employers and regulators need to hold apprentice training to the high standard it demands.  Ensuring systems are in place to measure satisfaction and participation, will help to reduce training dropouts and improve program quality.  

For more, check out our blog on improving the quality of work-integrated-learning programs here.