One of the first announcements I made as Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning was that the Government would redeploy £150 million of Train to Gain funding to deliver an additional 50,000 adult apprenticeships. A commitment to apprenticeships which was reinforced by the Chancellor in the comprehensive spending review and the Budget.
Fulfilling our ambitions was bound to be challenging given the difficult economic circumstances.
As we publish the latest “Statistical First Release” today, I am, therefore, delighted to be able to confirm that we have greatly exceeded this ambition. Provisional data show that the Government have delivered 326,700 apprenticeship starts in the first nine months of the 2010-11 academic year—this is 114,000 more than the previous year and more than double our ambition. The growth has been across sectors, at all ages and all levels. There has also been an increase in participation levels for 16-18 and 19+ learners. Final data covering this period will be reported in the January “Release”. The full report can be downloaded from the website at: http://www.thedataservice.org.uk/statistics/statisticalfirstrelease/sfr_current.
This is an historic achievement not just for Government but for employers, training providers and learners too. We have given colleges greater freedoms and flexibilities to meet the needs of businesses in their communities—consequently they have harnessed a very strong evidence base to persuade employers to invest in apprenticeships. Providers and employers have worked closely with the National Apprenticeships Service and Skills Funding Agency to deliver these impressive additional apprenticeship starts.
This growth proves that employers recognise apprenticeships to be a sound platform for long term economic prosperity. To build on this work we are now focusing on encouraging firms who have not taken on an apprentice before to do so and helping those who have to expand their programmes particularly at advanced and higher levels. I hope that this year’s expansion is part of a step change in attitudes towards the recruitment of apprentices.
The significant progress on apprenticeships is part of our wider programme of reform of further education and skills. This will make a crucial contribution in securing sustainable economic growth.
I have placed a copy of the letter I sent to all hon. Members in the Libraries of both Houses.