Too many barriers to apprenticeships for the young and disadvantaged – report

People from disadvantaged backgrounds are hardest hit by minimum entry requirements for apprenticeships, as well as low wages, says a new report from the NFER

Too many young people are being barred from access to apprenticeships because of minimum English and maths entry requirements, according to a report published today (16 June).

The problem impacts the majority of intermediate and advanced apprenticeships, says research by the (NFER).

“Our research highlights that numerous barriers exist which deter many young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, from starting apprenticeships,” said report co-author and research director at the NFER, Suzanne Straw.

“If the government is serious about creating ‘opportunities to all’, it needs to focus on more effectively tackling these barriers.”

The report calls for government to offer financial incentives for training providers and employers taking on apprentices yet to attain grade four or above in GCSE English and maths, and helping them achieve this level.

Such incentives would reflect the higher costs and potential risks associated with taking on these apprentices, says the NFER.

While apprenticeships have been substantially overhauled in the last decade – such as the launch of degree apprenticeships in 2015-16 – there has been a steep decline in the take-up of intermediate and advanced apprenticeships.

The impact of this fall has been not been uniform, with young people and those from disadvantaged communities of all ages the hardest hit.

Low apprentice wages are a particular barrier for this demographic, finds the new report, together with high travel costs acting as a disincentive to apply for more specialised opportunities beyond the would-be applicant’s local area.

With the impact of the cost of living crisis yet to reach its peak, these problems are only predicted to worsen.

To help ameliorate the situation, the NFER is calling on the government to consider extending the 16-19 bursary fund to apprentices, as well as reviewing the current minimum apprenticeship wage.

“For apprenticeships to be an accessible route for young people, particularly those who are most disadvantaged, it is essential the government provides the appropriate financial incentives to training providers, colleges and employers to take on more young people who have not already achieved a level two in English and maths,” added Straw.

Read more: Ucas data chief hails ‘staggering’ rise in apprenticeships interest

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