The DfE publication included final figures on the number and type of apprenticeships that were started over the 2018/19 academic year. It confirmed one trend that we have continuously identified: the fall in apprenticeship starts at Level 2, and the steady rise in the number of starts at higher-education (Level 4+) levels, as the chart below shows.
While the overall fall in starts (from 509k in 2015/16 to 393k in 2018/19) has generated headlines, previous Resolution Foundation research put it into context. We noted, for instance, that the types of apprenticeship programmes that have experienced the largest falls in starts (such as Level 2 apprenticeships in business, retail, and health and care) are the same programmes that in the past had both the lowest levels of formal training and the highest shares of apprentices unaware that they were, in fact, an apprentice. We found that this change in numbers was primarily driven by the introduction of apprenticeship standards – which require more training hours and longer programme durations than in the past – rather than by the apprenticeship levy.