Is the UK’s Apprenticeship System Crumbling? The Latest Data Unveiled!

In the realm of career development, apprenticeships have long stood as a bridge connecting theoretical knowledge with real-world application. They provide an invaluable platform for individuals to hone their skills, garner practical experience, and transition seamlessly into the workforce. However, the landscape of apprenticeships in the UK has been fluctuating, with various factors influencing the trends. As we delve into the 2022/23 academic year’s data, it’s crucial to understand these evolving dynamics to better equip careers teachers and heads of careers in guiding the next generation of professionals. 

The recently released report on apprenticeship starts unveils a mixture of promising growth in certain sectors and concerning declines in others. It paints a picture of a complex landscape, one where opportunities for advanced apprenticeships are on the rise, yet the overall uptake is dwindling. Dissecting this data is not merely an academic exercise, but a necessary endeavour to identify the underlying causes and potential solutions. As we navigate through the key findings of this report, we’ll unravel the intricate tapestry of apprenticeships in the UK, providing crucial insights to those at the helm of career advisement in our educational institutions. 

A Downward Trend in Apprenticeship Starts

The 2022/23 academic year witnessed a 4.6% decrease in apprenticeship starts relative to the preceding year. Alarmingly, a long-term view unveils a stark decline from 515,260 starts in 2011/12 to 275,630 in the current academic year. This downward trajectory highlights a pressing concern for both educators and policymakers. 

Dissecting the Data: Age and Level Disparities 

A breakdown of the data reveals several noteworthy trends: 

Age Demographics: Under 19s constitute 24.8% of the apprenticeship starts, tallying up to 68,290. This demographic insight is crucial for careers advisors targeting this age bracket. 
Level Distinctions: Advanced apprenticeships formed the bulk with 43.2% (119,170 starts), followed by higher apprenticeships at 34.0% (93,970 starts). Notably, higher apprenticeships are on an upward trend, rising by 6.1% to 93,670 compared to the last year. 
Level 6 and 7 Starts: A 9.3% increase was observed in Level 6 and 7 starts, now representing 15.0% of all starts for 2022/23. This indicates a growing interest or accessibility in higher-level apprenticeships, an invaluable insight for those advising on advanced education and career pathways. 

Funding and Achievements 

Funding: A significant 67.0% of the starts were supported by Apprenticeship Service Account (ASA) levy funds, underscoring the levy’s central role in funding apprenticeships. 
Achievements and Participation: Despite the dip in starts, apprenticeship achievements soared by 20.1% to 105,600. Moreover, learner participation saw a modest rise of 1.6%. 
Metric2022/23Percentage Change from 2021/22
Participation703,670 +1.6% 
Achievements105,600 +20.1% 

Political Reactions 

Labour’s Shadow Skills Minister, Seema Malhotra MP, criticised the government for the decline, advocating for a reformed ‘Growth and Skills Levy’ to enhance skills development and create more training opportunities. 

Positives and Negatives from the Report 

The apprenticeship data for the academic year 2022/23 sheds light on various aspects of the apprenticeship landscape in the UK. Here’s a breakdown of the positive and negative takeaways from the report: 


Growth in Higher Apprenticeships: There has been a notable growth in higher apprenticeships, with a 6.1% increase compared to the previous academic year. This growth indicates a rising interest or accessibility in higher-level apprenticeships, which is a positive sign for both employers and students looking for advanced, work-based learning opportunities. 
Increase in Level 6 and 7 Starts: The 9.3% increase in Level 6 and 7 apprenticeship starts reflects a growing interest in higher education level apprenticeships. This trend could also signify a wider acceptance and recognition of apprenticeship pathways in professional and high-skilled sectors. 
Rise in Achievements and Participation: The 20.1% increase in apprenticeship achievements and a 1.6% rise in learner participation are encouraging signs. These figures suggest that more learners are completing their apprenticeships successfully, and more individuals are participating in apprenticeship programmes, which is beneficial for the skills development of the UK workforce. 


Decline in Overall Apprenticeship Starts: The 4.6% decline in overall apprenticeship starts compared to the previous year is a concerning trend. This decline could reflect various challenges such as funding issues, lack of awareness or interest among potential apprentices, or perhaps employer hesitancy in providing apprenticeship opportunities. 
Long-term Decrease in Apprenticeship Starts: The significant drop in apprenticeship starts from 515,260 in 2011/12 to 275,630 in 2022/23 is alarming. This long-term downward trend may signal systemic issues within the apprenticeship framework or external economic factors affecting apprenticeship uptake. 
Potential Impact of Funding Mechanisms: With 67.0% of the apprenticeship starts supported by the Apprenticeship Service Account (ASA) levy funds, there might be concerns regarding the sustainability and effectiveness of the current funding mechanisms, especially if they are not translating into a broader uptake of apprenticeships. 

These insights from the report underscore a mixed landscape, with promising growth in certain areas of apprenticeships, juxtaposed against concerning declines in overall starts. Analysing these trends further and addressing the negatives while capitalising on the positives will be instrumental in shaping a more robust and effective apprenticeship system in the UK. 

Two students working on laptop and tablet

A Path Forward with MyCareerChoices 

In navigating this complex apprenticeship landscape, MyCareerChoices offers an expansive careers programme encompassing all UK apprenticeships. This resource serves as a robust foundation for careers teachers and heads of careers to provide nuanced advice, aligning students’ ambitions with the evolving apprenticeship opportunities. 

In conclusion, understanding these apprenticeship trends and leveraging comprehensive resources like MyCareerChoices are crucial steps in empowering educators to provide informed guidance, ultimately illuminating the path for students amidst a shifting educational landscape. 

In traversing through the maze of data from the 2022/23 academic year, we’ve unearthed both encouraging growths and disheartening declines in the UK’s apprenticeship landscape. The burgeoning interest in higher apprenticeships and the uptick in achievements spotlight the undeniable value and potential of apprenticeships as a cornerstone for skill development and career progression. Yet, the overarching decline in apprenticeship starts casts a long shadow, hinting at underlying issues that demand our attention and action. 

The insights gleaned beckon us to probe further: What are the driving forces behind the ebb and flow of apprenticeship starts? How can the existing framework be refined to reverse the declining trend and foster a more conducive environment for apprenticeships? The political milieu too plays its part, with proposed reforms like the ‘Growth and Skills Levy’ on the horizon. Could such reforms be the panacea to the ailments plaguing the apprenticeship sector? Moreover, how can educators, policymakers, and industry leaders collaborate to rekindle the allure of apprenticeships and ensure they remain a viable and attractive pathway for the workforce of tomorrow?