Skills shortage: Apprenticeship completion stats show decline

27 January 2015

The industry is struggling to retain the young apprentices it recruits, the latest government statistics reveal, with just 8,030 apprentices in the “construction, planning and built environment” sector achieving their qualifications in 2013/14, down from 9,060 the previous year.

The figure is less than half the 18,980 who completed apprenticeships in 2008/09 and represents the fifth straight year of decline.

The data, included in the government table “Apprenticeship Framework Achievements by sector subject area”, was published by the Skills Funding Agency on 15 January and covers England only.

The statistical update also covers the number of people starting apprenticeships, again for England only.

Here, there was slightly better news, with 15,890 individuals starting apprenticeships in “construction, planning and the built environment” in 2013-14, compared with 13,730 in 2012-13 and 13,920 2011-12.

But the peak year for apprenticeship starts was 2006/7, when 27,300 embarked on on-the-job training.

Apprentice starts 2009-14

  2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 Change since 2009/10

Built environment

20,550 22,420
13,920 13,730 15,890 -23%

Source: BIS

Apprenticeship framework achievements 2009-14

2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14

Built environment

16,890 14,240
12,600 9,060 8,030

If the 13,920 who started construction apprenticeships in 2011-12 were converted to just 8,030 achievements in 2013-14, this would suggest a success rate of only 57%.

However, it is not clear how many of the 8,030 people who completed apprenticeships last year were on two-year apprenticeships, and how many achieved three year “advanced” qualifications. 

But the figures do suggest that the conversion rate has improved since the depths of the recession where many apprentices were thrown out of work. Comparing the 22,420 starts in 2010-11 to the 9,060 achievements two years later in 2012-13 suggests a completion rate of just 40%.


If you look back to the height of the boom in 2003/4, you will see completion rates as low as 37% as apprentices left early to follow the money.
Completion rates were actually higher at the height of recession as apprenticeships were maintained as an alternative to unemployment.

The current boom could have the same effect a fall in apprenticeship completions as the money gets chased.
Those without the higher skill set will be most at risk again when the next downturn happens as it inevitably will.

C Blythe, 27 January 2015

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