At the current time, 702 apprenticeship standards are listed on the UK Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) website.  When we drill down into the detail, we see that of these 702 standards, 516 are approved for delivery, over 140 are in development and 10 are potential standards.  More than 30 were withdrawn or retired during 2019.

The 516 standards which are approved for delivery are spread across 15 sectors, with over 50% of them being in three sectors – Construction (82 standards), Engineering & Manufacturing (122) and Health and Science (63)[1].

When we look at the levels, we see that nearly 60% of the approved-for-delivery standards are at levels 2 and 3, with the remainder spread across the other levels.

These are interesting numbers and is a huge achievement for the institute and its employer panels, especially when we consider that this represents a transition from the old apprenticeship frameworks and trailblazer standards.

However, of more interest to us at Blue Mirror Insights (BMI) in our work with the UK and other countries is how the numbers of apprentices taking these standards (the supply) relate to the sizes of labour markets and the levels of demand coming from them.  In short, the skills supply chain.

Here’s an interesting table for three labour markets near and dear to us:

  Apprentice Numbers  
Country Flow per year Total stock Size of the labour market Completion rates Number of recognised apprenticeship entry occupations[2]
England 510,000 868,700 32.6m 50% 250[3]
Germany 530,000 1.5m 33.32m 87% 326[4]
USA 164,000 375,000 160m 44% 386[5]

Source: G20-OECD-EC Conference on Quality Apprenticeships prepared for the meeting in Australia in 2014[6] with additions[7]

Three things stand out for us:

  • Numbers of apprentices relative to the size of the respective labour markets: 6% in England; 4.5% in Germany; and, 0.2% in the United States. This clearly reflects the heritage of apprenticeships in the three countries.
  • Completion rates: a huge range, with nearly all apprentices successfully completing in Germany. England and the United States perform badly, with high dropout rates driven by poor apprenticeship programmes, social issues, change of programmes by students, etc.  If it is not already doing so, IfATE should be aware of and act on these statistics, in our opinion.
  • Number of recognised occupations for which an apprenticeship is provided: these numbers of occupations which have apprenticeship entry programmes nationally recognised vary through time and are increasing in the UK as the levels of apprenticeship develops i.e. the introduction of degree apprenticeships

Notes

[1] The other sectors have the following number of standards: agriculture, environmental and animal care (24); business and administration (30); care services (6); catering and hospitality (9); creative and design (19); education and childcare (7); hair and beauty (4); legal, financial and accountancy (38); protective services (16); sales, marketing and procurement (32); and, transport and logistics (33).

[2] Number of recognised apprenticeship entry occupations is a simple idea of the number of occupations which have an apprenticeship entry. For each occupation we find multiple apprenticeships (different specialisms and focal points) and occupations vary in number by country and their occupation classification system. The system in the USA has c1000 occupations listed and Germany has c750 with the UK having 365.

[3] These 250 apprenticeship frameworks cover around 1400 job roles. Let’s just look at the Engineering and Manufacturing Pathway which has 122 standards listed which further break down into 356 different standards and their options which cover entry into, and progression within 142 occupations. We have taken all of the standards and options from the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education across the Engineering and Manufacturing Pathway and then matched them to the O*NET occupation listing which offers a greater granular level for the matching than is offered by the UK SOC codes and definitions. This standards-O*NET matching was done manually to examine the potential for undertaking such a process and this could be automated and so draw upon the full range of descriptions and so deepen the quality of the match.

[4] Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (2018) VET Data Report Germany 2016/17. Bonn. See Figure 4, Structure of Recognised Training Occupations 2007 to 2016 which uses five categories: mono occupations (include the old training occupations and have been in place prior to 1969); occupations with specialism; occupation with main focus; occupations with elective qualifications; and, occupations with additional qualifications. Looking at the number of government-recognised training occupations in Germany (326 in the table) is made-up of a number different categories and varies over time as training occupations are update (modernised) and new training occupations are included (since 2009, 132 training occupations have been newly created and/or modernised). Over the period 2008-2017 the total varies from 351 to 326.

[5] This is not a straightforward task as the definition of an apprenticeship varies as does that for an occupation and its recording in the official (national) occupation coding system. For example, in the United States, the Department of Labor houses the Office of Apprenticeship which lists the officially recognised ‘apprenticeable’ occupations. This list contains 1373 occupations in total in which we find multiple occupation titles for a single O*NET occupation code e.g. 33 for a carpenter, 42 for a mechanic and machinist. Taking recognition of these multiple apprenticeship titles allocated to a single O*NET occupation code reduces the list to 386 occupations. The table below seeks to capture some basic information to allow for an initial comparison.

[6] Defining an apprenticeship is not straight forward with CEDEFOP defines apprenticeship as:

“Systematic, long-term training alternating periods at the workplace and in an educational institution or training centre. The apprentice is contractually linked to the employer and receives remuneration (wage or allowance). The employer assumes responsibility for providing the trainee with training leasing to a specific occupation.” (Terminology of European Education and Training Policy – A Selection of 100 Key Terms, CEDEFOP, 2008). One used by Eurostat is one which is now more widely used: Apprenticeships aim at completing a given education and training programme in the formal education system. Learning time alternates between periods of practical training at the workplace (inside or outside the employer premises) and general/theoretical education in an educational institution or training centre (on a weekly monthly or yearly basis). An apprenticeship has to fulfil the following criteria:

  • The apprenticeship is a component of a formal education programme
  • Upon successful completion, as evidenced by a qualification or certificate, apprenticeships qualify for employment in a specific occupation or group of occupations
  • The characteristics of the apprenticeship (e.g. occupation, duration, skills to be acquired) are defined in a training contract or formal agreement between the appropriate and the employer directly or via educational institution
  • The participant (apprentice) receives remuneration (wage or allowance)
  • The duration of the contract or formal agreement is at least six months and at most six years
  • In most cases, the apprenticeship contract or formal agreement involves an employer and a person not having any other formal arrangement with the latter before the apprenticeship starts

Source: Eurostat (2010) Task Force on the improvement of the quality of education variables in the LFS and other household surveys. 2.3 Review of Topic 3 (secondary variables) – Apprentices and trainees.

[7] Additions have come from The Office of Apprenticeships (OA) List of Officially Recognised Apprenticeship Occupations (revised October 2017) for the USA and for Germany from the Federal institute for Vocational Education and Training (See Note 5)