Covid: Apprenticeships available fall by almost half in a year

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Richard Pallot

  • Words by Business and Economics Producer Mariah Hedges

The stark reality facing young Britons has become clear with figures revealing that apprenticeships have been halved by the coronavirus pandemic.

Available apprenticeships in England were 46% lower between 23 March and 31 July than the same period last year, according to figures published on Thursday by the Department for Education.

Despite the government's promise to guarantee an apprenticeship for every young person, the under 25s are facing the brunt of the UK job crisis.

On Wednesday, the Chancellor extended the apprenticeship incentive scheme to 31 March 2021. 

Make UK, an industry body for manufacturers whose members account for one in ten apprenticeships in the UK, found that the government’s £2,000 bonus for every new apprentice hired is failing to incentivise business. 

Just 12% of Make UK members said they could make use of the government’s coronavirus apprenticeship support scheme. 

19-year-old Brandon Spode was made redundant three weeks ago from his dream job as a robotics engineer. He said: "I always wanted to be a computer coder and I am interested in the machine patterns that can create." 

The firm’s orders had dried up due to Covid-19 and the company had to make redundancies across the business.  

Just 12% of Make UK members said they could make use of the government’s coronavirus apprenticeship support scheme. Credit: PA

Losing his first job has been hard on Brandon. "When I lost my apprenticeship, I lost all my motivation for getting up in the morning and all that certainty about what path I was on," he said.

Brandon is now being supported by Make UK for 12 weeks to continue his training while he looks for another apprenticeship. If he cannot find another placement in that time his training will have to stop. 

Fewer than half of Make UK’s members have plans to hire an apprentice in the next year. This is a sharp decline from the 74% recorded last year. 

Sam Handley, Director of Swiftool Precision Engineering Ltd based in Nottinghamshire is reducing her apprentices from nine in 2019 to six this year and three next year.

She said: “The £2,000 grant is going to make no difference when it costs £25,000 a year to train an apprentice. Also, we are not doing this for financial gain but to provide the future lifeblood of the company, as well as giving something back to an area with low social mobility.”

The retail and leisure sectors, hardest hit by the pandemic, have seen the steepest fall in the number of opportunities available.  

A £2,000 grant aimed to help businesses hire new apprentices has been extended to March 2021. Credit: PA

22-year-old Kayleigh Haggar started her hairdressing apprenticeship in January and was made redundant nine months later due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Hairdressing is Kayleigh’s passion. She has trained for three years to become a stylist but now feels that her career goal may be taken away. "It was really heartbreaking. I got on so well with everyone there," she said.

The stress of finding another apprenticeship is taking its toll on Kayleigh’s mental health. 

She said: "I’m nervous I won’t find somewhere else. I struggle with my mental health and to start again will be really difficult.

"I’ve applied to loads of salons and no one is getting back to me. I don’t feel good enough. I am considering giving up." 

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Gillian Keegan said: “We cannot ignore the huge impact the coronavirus has had on the jobs market and we know that some apprentices have lost their job, or are facing redundancy. 

“It is great to see that, in spite of this, thousands of businesses have already taken up our cash boost of up to £2,000 to hire new apprentices, giving more people the chance to get ahead in a range of exciting industries."

This offer has now been extended until March 2021, so businesses can create more jobs and reap the benefits apprentices bring. 

She added: “Our Redundancy Support Service continues to offer free advice to apprentices and help to find them alternative options. There are currently around 7,000 apprenticeship opportunities available to apply for through our Find an Apprenticeship digital service.”