Government drive to get more young people into apprenticeships 'failing to deliver' for under 24s, says Alan Milburn

Mr Milburn warns apprenticeships on offer are not giving young people a 'genuine route to success'

The Government’s drive to get more young people into apprenticeships is “failing to deliver” for the under 24s, with numbers taking up the schemes “flat-lining” since 2010, the social mobility tsar has said.

Alan Milburn, who leads the independent Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, also warned that the nature of apprenticeships on offer was not giving young people a strong enough foundation or a “genuine route to success”.

In evidence submitted to the Educations, Skills and the Economy Committee, the Commission has raised concerns that, despite public support from the top of Government, there has been barely any change in the number of under 24s starting apprenticeships since the Coalition came to power six years ago.

The commission also found that most apprentices were not taking a “step up” with their apprentice. Most A-level apprentices are doing GCSE level apprenticeships and 97 per cent of university-age apprentices are doing apprenticeships at A-level equivalent or lower.

Mr Milburn, a former cabinet minister, said: “The Government is committed to giving all young people a chance to make something of their lives, but the current drive to increase the number of apprenticeships isn’t delivering for people under the age of 24.

“The number of young apprentices has flat-lined since 2010 and many of these apprenticeships don’t offer young people a foundation they can build on. The Government needs to increase the quality of apprenticeships on offer to young people and make sure that every apprenticeship offers a genuine route to success.”

The commission called for an increase in the number of young people doing higher apprenticeships to 30,000 by 2020 – compared to just 4,200 19 to 24-year-olds today.

It also calls for a UCAS-style body to give young people better information about which apprenticeships are available and what career prospects they could lead to.

A Government spokesperson said: “Apprenticeships give school leavers the opportunity to gain the skills they need to get on. We are committed to increasing the number of young people starting apprenticeships and to driving up quality. Our reforms mean apprenticeships are more rigorously tested, last longer and are more responsive to the needs of employers.  

“We have allocated an additional £25 million for 16-to-18 apprenticeship recruitment this year in support of this government’s commitment to deliver 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.”