Higher apprenticeships increase by more than 25%

Statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show a more than a quarter increase in higher apprenticeship starts

Statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show a 27% increase in the number of higher apprenticeship starts in the first quarter of the 2021-22 academic year, compared to the previous year.

The statistics were published this morning (27 January) and indicate a move towards post-pandemic recovery.

Dr Joe Marshall, chief of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) welcomed the information and said “higher apprenticeships will allow for universities and businesses to produce the highly-skilled, adaptable workforce the economy needs to help the nation’s post-pandemic recovery” and expressed hope “that 2022 will continue to be a large growth year for the number of higher apprenticeships.”

Higher apprenticeships allow students to gain work experience whilst studying, enter the job market immediately, or reskill whilst earning.

Marshall expressed the importance of “diversifying pathways into education” and said that the high number of job vacancies seen in recent months have revealed concerns over a “skills mismatch” crisis.

He continued, “higher apprenticeships may well be a silver bullet for getting specially trained people into unfilled jobs.”

Marshall concluded his statement by calling for further flexibilities to be introduced that allow employers to use a part of their apprenticeship levy to fund appropriate training for existing employees. He said, “this would allow businesses to use their levy for important retraining purposes, but would also protect part of the levy to create new apprenticeship opportunities for young people.”

A series of freedom of information (FOI) requests by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development uncovered a £2bn apprenticeship levy underspend between May 2019 and March 2021 – funding returned to the Treasury because employers had not been able to make use of it. Some want the looser rules on apprenticeship levy spending to eliminate this underspend.

Under rules introduced in 2017, apprenticeship funding in England comes through a levy equivalent to 0.5% of salary costs for companies with an annual wage bill above £3m. This money is paid to the Treasury if not used within two years.

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