Department for Education today (18 May) updated their progress in the Apprenticeship Reform Programme and summarised how this benefits employers and apprentices.

This strategy outlines a range of high-level indicators of success for the programme, measured in positive outcomes for participants.

The benefits realisation updates summarise progress in achieving the growth targets set out in the strategy, taken from the latest published statistical data sets. Data for starts and achievements for academic years 2011 to 2012 to 2017 to 2018 (reported to date) are available. They are still in early stages of development and will evolve over time.

This strategy outlines a range of high-level indicators of success for the programme, measured in positive outcomes for participants.

From January 2018 the Further Education and Skills statistical first release (SFR) have changed. Future reports will align with the publication of the SFR. In the benefits realisation strategy, DfE are committed to reporting against all measures on an annual basis. This will be timed to coincide with the availability of all relevant data.

Public sector bodies employing more than 250 employees in England now have a target to employ an average of at least 2.3% of their staff as apprentices over the period 2017 to 2021. They are required to report annually and the first formal submission will be available in late 2018. Progress against the success measure relating to increasing the number of public sector apprenticeships will be available from this time, and subsequently included in the DfE report.

The previous statistical first release (SFR) was published on 23 November 2017. This provided finalised data on all further education and skills, including the apprenticeship programme, for the academic year 2016/17. 

Update on growth

The Government is committed to reaching 3 million new apprenticeship starts in England by 2020. Final data for 2016 to 2017 academic year shows 494,900 apprenticeships have been started.

This compares to 509,400 reported at this time last year for the 2015 to 2016 academic year, a decrease of 2.8%. This takes us to 1,119,600 apprenticeship starts since May 2015, which is 37.3% of 3 million, broadly within trajectory to meet this target by 2020.

Starts in higher and advanced apprenticeship levels have increased: the highest percentage increase has been in higher apprenticeships, which have increased by 34.7% from 27,200 in 2015 to 2016 up to 36,600 in 2016 to 2017. Starts at intermediate level decreased by 10.5% in the 2016 to 17 academic year compared to the same point in 2015/16

Starts from black, asian and minority ethnic groups

During the period August 2016 to July 2017, 55,310 apprenticeships were started by individuals who are from a black, asian and minority ethnic group. This compares to 53,480 for 2015 to 16.

This is equivalent to 11.2% during this academic year, compared to 10.5% in the previous academic year.

The success measure for this group is to increase the proportion of black, asian and minority ethinic participation by 20%, to reach 11.9% by 2020.

Learning disabilities

During the period August 2016 to July 2017, 50,930 apprenticeships were started by individuals who are from the learning difficulties and / or disabilities group. This compares to 50,640 for the 2015/16 academic year. This is equivalent to 10.3% during this academic year, compared to 9.9% in the previous academic year.

The success measure for this group is to increase the proportion of learning difficulties and / or disabilities participation by 20%, to reach 11.9% by 2020.


Statistical data sets do not currently provide a break down of starts by disadvantaged area and further analysis is required to produce a measure of the value of engagement, as determined by sector subject area.

DfE are currently considering their approach, and will update in a subsequent report.

The Apprenticeship Reform Programme will contribute to the Government’s industrial strategy and its drive for greater social justice.

Social Mobility

  • By creating more apprenticeships, they are increasing the number of opportunities to help individuals climb the ladder of opportunity by gaining job specific skills that support sustained labour market participation and so stop the cycle of short term jobs and short term unemployment (for young people in particular).

  • They aim to improve their understanding of how apprenticeships already contribute to social mobility and find ways in which they could go further. They are developing a strategy to improve equality of access, in particular to increase the number of apprentices from disadvantaged and just managing households, from black and ethnic minority groups, and from those with learning difficulties and disabilities who are starting, completing and progressing in apprenticeships. All the recommendations from the Maynard Taskforcehave been accepted and will be incorporated into work-streams to support inclusion of individuals with learning disabilities.

  • This strategy will also look for opportunities in the Department for Work and Pensions’ work on the youth obligation and identify obstacles to participation for particular types of people.

Industrial Strategy

  • Developing skills is one of ten key pillars in the government’s industrial strategy, as published in November 2017. Their Programme is a key supporting component of this theme, alongside Technical Education and Higher Education.

  • Apprenticeships already offer employers an excellent opportunity to develop the right skills at the required levels in their business. Through the development of apprenticeship standards, employers are able to ensure the range and scope of apprenticeships meets their needs. Their Programme intends to increase the relevance and quality of apprenticeship training thereby raising the skills levels of individual workers, and should contribute to increased national productivity and reduced reliance on overseas skilled workers as employers choose to ‘grow their own’ talent.
  • They are engaging closely with Industrial Strategy to consider the most effective and appropriate approaches to understand and tackle identified skills needs, using data on skills, the labour market and migration to understand how they are meeting skills deficits and to intelligently inform policy making.

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