Thousands of apprenticeships lost in key industries including construction and IT

By contrast, apprenticeships in health, public services and care have shot up

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The Independent Online

There has been a sharp fall in the number of apprenticeships in the construction and IT sectors over the past five years, which could prompt parliamentary scrutiny.

The Conservatives have hailed figures which showed that more than 2.2 million apprenticeships have been created since 2010 and announced plans to create 3 million more by 2020. But detailed statistics, revealed in a parliamentary answer to Diana Johnson, the Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North, showed some sectors are still struggling to attract fresh talent.

There were 16,890 construction, planning and built environment apprentices in 2009-10, but this had more than halved to barely 8,000 just four years later. The construction industry has complained of an ageing workforce, but apprentice numbers suffered as companies struggled for work when they were badly hit by the economic crisis.

There were 10,510 apprentices who entered the information and communications technology sector in 2010-11, but this fell to under 8,000 for the following two years – still much higher than pre-financial crisis levels. Retail and leisure travel and tourism sectors have suffered declines since 2012. 

“The Government tells us that apprenticeship numbers are going one way – up,” Ms Johnson told The Independent. “But if you dig down into areas like construction and ICT the record is not good. Technology is particularly worrying, as that’s about the future.”

Ms Johnson said she would ask for a debate in Parliament on the figures, which would put pressure on ministers to explain why apprenticeships were so “patchy” across sectors. She is also concerned about an apparent lack of take-up in certain sectors of high-level apprentices, which can lead to them receiving degrees by the end of their training.

By contrast,apprenticeships in health, public services and care shot up from 28,230 in 2009-10 to nearly 58,000 four years later. The number setting out in careers in agriculture, animal care and horticulture was up 22.4 per cent to 4,480 over the same time.

The Skills minister, Nick Boles, said: “We want far more employers to get involved in apprenticeships. This means making sure that we practise what we preach in government, so we’re going require all public-sector bodies – schools, hospitals, prisons and police forces – to employ apprentices.”

A Business department spokesman said: “We are committed to driving up the quality of apprenticeships which affected some sectors when we moved to officially discount those where no job was involved and those that lasted less than 12 months.

“Since 2009/10, the overall number of ‘full apprenticeships’ (those with a duration of 12 months or more) has more than doubled, and we have committed to 3 million apprenticeship starts during the lifetime of this Parliament.”