Urgent action needed as Apprenticeship loans fail to take-off

28th November 2013

NIACE is repeating its call for the Government to take urgent action following the publication of the number of people taking out a loan for an Advanced or Higher-Level Apprenticeship. Today’s figures show that in the first quarter only 404 people, aged 24 and over, have applied for loans against the target of 25,000 for the year, and compared to 197,600 Apprentices at this level in 2012/13*.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“We have continually voiced our concerns about the impact loans for Apprenticeships would have. However, as today’s figures show, that impact has been even more severe than anyone first feared. To have only reached 404 in the first quarter which is below 2 per cent of the target of 25,000 for the year proves that this is a failed policy and the Government must take urgent action now.

“At this point of the year it’s also time to do more detailed analysis of a policy which we always knew was going to have a negative and differential impact on learner numbers. Despite promising figures for those taking out loans for Access to HE courses we are worried about the geographical and subject pattern of what’s being funded and we are anxious about who may be missing out. We want to know who’s learning, what they’re learning and where they are learning.

“Alongside the four priority actions we proposed last month we also want the Government to publish data by Local Enterprise Partnership (LEPs) boundaries so LEPs can start to stimulate demand and action in their areas with local employers and other partners.

“Last year 197,600 adults over 24 benefitted from an Apprenticeship at Level 3 and above. We believe that without urgent action, adults are not going to get the training they need, employers won’t have the skilled workforce they are crying out for and the prospect for prolonged economic growth will be at risk.

“We also need to understand the impact this new policy has had on learning and learners because it is likely to be considered for other age groups and other levels of learning in the future. The public funding cuts required over the next three to four years may result in loans being the only funding mechanism for younger adults at intermediate as well as lower levels of learning. If that happens, we will do well to have learned how these loans have played out so that we can protect the most vulnerable adults and the most important learning across the country.”

NIACE is urging the Government to take the following five priority actions:

  1. Government should apply a ‘write off’ of loans for an Advanced Apprenticeship for those achieving a Higher-Level Apprenticeship as currently happens for those completing a degree following an Access Course.
  2. Government should consider incentives, in the form of subsidies, for those under-represented groups to encourage wider participation in Apprenticeships.
  3. Government should hold a round-table with employers, providers and learners to discuss new actions to increase the numbers taking up Apprenticeships.
  4. Government should develop, with Apprentices in partnership with employers and unions, an Apprenticeship Charter which details what an Apprentice can expect from their investment and illustrates the benefits it will have on their future career.
  5. Government to publish data by Local Enterprise Partnership (LEPs) boundaries so LEPs can start to stimulate action in their areas from local employers.

*As recorded on page 24 of today’s Statistical First Release for the 2012/13 academic year.