The government’s £2,000 bonus for every new apprentice hired is failing to stem the cull of on-the-job training programmes by employers, according to educational charity The Sutton Trust.
A two-stage survey of 500 employers found an increase in the numbers of businesses making apprentices redundant as the year progressed. In April 8 per cent of respondents said they had cut apprentice positions but by October this had risen to 12 per cent of the sample.
There was also a rise in the proportion who said they would not hire any apprentices over the coming 12 months, from 9 per cent in April to 16 per cent in October.
Only a fifth of respondents had by October used one of the government incentives offered by Rishi Sunak in July as part of his Plan for Jobs to help stimulate recruitment.
And although the £2,000 bonus for taking on an apprentice aged under 25 was the most popular choice from the job creation support packages offered by the chancellor, only 9 per cent of those interviewed by The Sutton Trust had claimed it.
The study’s findings raise further concerns about the future of apprenticeships post pandemic.
Just 58,160 new apprentices started in England between the start of the UK-wide lockdown on March 23 and July 31, a drop of 46 per cent on the same period in 2019, according to the latest Department for Education statistical release. Further declines are expected to be revealed when this data is updated this month.
“The coronavirus crisis is having a catastrophic impact on apprentices. This will have a knock-on effect for opportunities for young people in the years to come,” Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said.
“Apprenticeships have a crucial role to play in delivering the government’s social mobility agenda which will be especially important as we come out of the pandemic.”
Demand for places is high among young people for those apprenticeships that are being offered, according to those that have set up such schemes.
Lookers, a national car dealership network in the UK and Ireland, this week announced plans to hire a record 180 apprentices this year, covering a variety of roles from mechanics to customer service staff. Last year more than a thousand people applied for the 150 apprentice positions that Lookers made available, according to Matt Clay, group qualifications manager.
“This programme, and the other apprenticeship schemes we have in Lookers have become an integral part of the business,” Mr Clay said.
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“The additional support from the UK government’s apprenticeship scheme has been a hugely welcome boost and it has allowed us to actually expand our programme and the number of roles we have available for this intake.”
The Department for Education said its redundancy support service offered free advice to apprentices and helped them search for new opportunities.
“Over 1,000 employers have signed up to the service to offer opportunities to redundant apprentices, including Bupa Dental and Taylor Wimpey. We have also changed the law so more apprentices who have lost their jobs can complete their programmes and get the skills and experience they need to progress,” the department said.