The Up to the Job report, by think tank Demos, found out that only 6.6 per cent of young people aged 16-24 are currently in apprenticeships, but more than 54 per cent of young people in that age bracket would choose and apprenticeship if it was offered.
The study also revealed that fewer than ten percent of employers in England currently offer apprenticeships, with most companies that do run apprenticeship programmes confirming they are ‘heavily oversubscribed’.
As a result, England is lagging ‘significantly’ behind other G20 countries, with just 11 apprentices for every 1,000 employees compared with just 11 apprentices for every 1,000 employees, compared with 39 in Australia, 40 in Germany and 43 in Switzerland.
With CEBR figures suggesting that an apprenticeship typically raises an employee’s productivity by £214 per week, the study argued that increasing apprentice levels by up to 300,000 would boost GDP by £4bn a year and reduce youth unemployment, which is currently at 20 per cent.
The report also suggested that the Youth Contract, which is aimed at increasing employment and work experience opportunities for young people, does not have high enough take-up rates because employers have to apply to the Department for Work and Pensions, which can seem ‘remote and bureaucratic’.
It urged the government to re-route funding to schemes that have a higher take-up rates, such as the Creative Employment Programme.
“The UK economy is currently facing a twin crisis of severe youth unemployment and a shocking productivity gap. Both could be solved in one fell swoop by boosting apprenticeships. Britain is losing the global race and letting down its young people by not doing more to skill up,” said report author Jonathan Todd, Demos’s chief economist.
“Policy since the early 1990s has focused on getting young people to university, but the half of young people who don’t study for a degree have been forgotten. Employers are the missing piece of this puzzle – the Government needs to make it as easy as possible for them to take a chance on an apprentice.”
Hospitality apprentices rise
Separate figures published today revealed that half of England’s retail and hospitality firms plan to take on apprentices in the next five years, with a quarter (27%) intending to do so in the next 12 months.
Almost half of retail and hospitality employers said they were more likely to offer and apprenticeship today than two years ago, and a third of all companies (32%) planning to take on apprentices said it was as an essential part of their growth strategy.
Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, said: “As we kick off National Apprenticeship Week it’s good to see that employers are increasingly recognising the value apprentices can bring to their businesses.
“Apprentices are now a key and valued part of the workforce for most businesses large or small – and the huge increase which this Government has overseen is one of my proudest achievements.”