Apprenticeship starts are showing recovery to pre-Covid levels, according to new Department for Education data.

Provisional figures published 27 January 2022 show there were 130,200 starts recorded from August to October 2021, compared to 91,100 reported for the same period in 2020, a 43 per cent jump.  The starts recorded for the first quarter of 2021 and 22 are also 3 per cent up on the 125,800 reported for same period in 2019 before the pandemic struck.  However, the picture is less rosy for traineeships which are struggling to take off despite substantial investment from the Treasury.

Today’s data shows there were 5,600 traineeship starts recorded between August and October 2021, a 5 per cent fall on the 5,900 recorded for the same period in 2020, and a 2 per cent drop on the 5,700 reported in 2019.  Chancellor Rishi Sunak set a target to triple the number of starts in both the 2020 to 21 and 2021 to 22 academic years, backed with almost £250 million.

A progress report for Sunak’s Plan for Jobs was published in September and revealed there were 17,000 traineeship starts last year, 46 per cent of the government’s 36,700 target.  Ministers hope to achieve 43,000 starts on the scheme this year, meaning another 37,400 will need to be found over the next three quarters.

16-18 apprenticeship starts almost back to a third.  The data shows the proportion of apprenticeship starts in the under 19 age group have recovered following the drop seen this time last year.  The percentage now stands at 31 per cent, compared to 26 per cent in 2020 and 32 per cent in 2019.  The number of starts from learners aged 25 and over has increased again, from 41,500 to 49,800, but the proportion for this age group has dropped from 46 per cent in 2020 to 38 per cent in 2021.  Higher apprenticeships continue to grow in 2021 and 22.  Starts at levels 4 to 7 increased by 27 per cent to 38,200, compared to 30,100 in the same period last year.  Starts at level 6 and 7 (degree level) increased by 35 per cent from 14,300 in the first quarter of 2020 and 21 to 19,400 in 2021 and 22.

Independent Training Providers continue to dominate apprenticeships space.  Out of 130,200 apprenticeship starts in the first quarter of the 2021 and 22 academic year, private training providers were responsible for 57 per cent (74,300).  General FE colleges meanwhile accounted for 26 per cent (33,700).  Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi issued a call to arms to college leaders to deliver more apprenticeships during an address to the Association of Colleges conference in November 2021.  He said: “Currently around 30 per cent of apprenticeships are carried out in colleges, but if we really want to transform supply we will have to grow that number.”  These statistics also provide an update for take-up of the chancellor’s apprenticeship incentive scheme, which hands employers a “bonus” of £3,000 to take on a new apprentice of any age up to January 31, 2022.  As of January 10, 2022, 161,860 claims for the incentives had been made.

George Swann Skills and Training Lead said: “Provision of apprenticeship training for the sectors occupation is increasing and FIS will be conducting a Skills Pulse survey to see if volumes in the sector are reflective of the figures reported above.  The sectors occupations are front of house for a number of influential organisations that FIS is working with, and we are experiencing an increase in training and qualification enquiries from employer members.  The figures received in December 2021 are not quite up to increases reported, but they are a quarter behind.”

Number of registered apprentices:

  • England:
    • Interior Systems Installer ST0388 = 90 (average annual starts 150)
    • Plasterer ST0096 = 470 (average annual starts 629)
  • England old framework (VQ outcome) = 62 Interior System, 240 Plastering
  • Scotland = 88 Interior Systems, 70 Plastering
  • Wales = 9 Interior Systems, 51 Plastering
  • Completed VQ’s in Interior Systems Q3 2021 = 1720
  • Completed VQ’s in Plastering Q3 2021 = 1380

If you would like information, advice and guidance about training and qualifications or taking on an apprentice contact FIS 0121 707 0077 or email