Despite ongoing efforts, many of the UK’s key industries are still in the grip of a skills shortage. This struggle may only get harder as Brexit threatens to turn-off the taps of international talent. The government has set an ambitious target to encourage homegrown young blood by increasing apprenticeship starts, aiming to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.
Our analysis found that only 8,400 apprenticeship positions are currently being advertised, with an average salary of £14,759. With 2020 only two years away, the question must be asked on whether the government’s 3 million target is attainable.
These small numbers may be a result of the apprenticeship levy, introduced last April, to encourage better quality apprentice roles. But with all of the criticism it has faced, it is unlikely to have had time to produce the desired effect.
One big drawback of the vacancies that are currently live is that these opportunities are clustered in the South East corner of the country.
Jobseekers seeking a training scheme have 2,484 openings to choose from in the Greater London region, and 1,088 in the South East, but there are far fewer apprenticeship vacancies available in other areas of the UK. The North East, for example, offers just 289 open positions, while in Wales there are only 90 apprenticeships up for grabs. In light of this, it’s crucial that employers in other areas of the UK foster opportunities for apprentices and limit the brain drain to the capital.
Large urban centres outside of the capital are worth considering for aspiring apprenticeships, with Manchester (198), Birmingham (166), and Leeds (127), all hosting a good array of roles. But there is still a way to go to spread out opportunities across the country.
A large majority of apprenticeships are focused on attracting school leavers meaning moving location for a role is much less feasible than it would be for a full time position. Without a better distribution of positions, young people in the more Northern parts of the country will be left at a disadvantage.
Likewise, our research revealed apprenticeships are not readily available in all sectors.
The industries currently offering most apprenticeship positions are IT (1,085), Hospitality & Catering (1,046), and Teaching (740), while areas like Law (9) and Property (23) are not pulling their weight. Skills shortage sectors such as Healthcare & Nursing (92) and Trade & Construction (109) are missing a trick here.
Pay levels remain pretty uneven too. Apprentices in the Legal sector can expect the highest pay, with advertised wages in this area of £23,904, while Engineering placements offer the second-highest average at £22,512. While an average three year degree could cost you £21,000 in tuition fees, young people may be more persuaded by the option of earning whilst learning. However, other apprenticeship openings including Property (£10,989) and Social Work (£10,293) are far less lucrative and these sectors may therefore find it harder to recruit high calibre applicants.
The final piece of the jigsaw puzzle is to raise the profile of apprenticeships as a whole. More roles are needed, but publicising and filling them is also key. First and foremost, the apprenticeship route into work needs to be pushed out more at schools as a viable and visible alternative to higher education.
Apprenticeships offer a cost effective way of training on the job as well as developing new talent in skills shortage areas. This makes them a win-win solution for both employers and jobseekers, and one that should be nurtured.