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More apprenticeships needed to tackle youth unemployment

Ahead of unemployment figures expected to show youth unemployment topping 1 million, new research from the think tank IPPR shows that Government apprenticeship schemes are not helping enough young people out of unemployment. 

IPPR’s report says that although the number of apprenticeships for young people has grown over the last two years, employers are using apprenticeship funding to subsidise training for workers over the age of 25. The report argues for a political consensus to support a continued growth in apprenticeships but argues that the apprenticeship ‘brand’ should be reserved for young people. 

IPPR’s new research shows that 40% of apprenticeships went to over 25s last year and that just 37,000 of the 126,000 extra apprenticeships created last year went to 16-24 year olds. The rise in apprenticeships for over 25s represents a growth of 257%, while for 19-24 year olds the rise in apprenticeships was just 22% and for 16-18 year olds the growth was just 10%.  Of the apprenticeship places for over 25s in 2009/10, 58% were at the lower level 2, and it is likely that employers have since used apprenticeship funding to fill the gap caused by the withdrawal of government Train to Gain funding for this level of training. 

IPPR’s new report includes a chapter by Conservative Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, John Hayes MP and a chapter by the Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, Martin Doel.

IPPR analysis of the latest unemployment figures show:·        

  • Almost a million (991,000) young people (aged 16-24) are now unemployed, the highest since comparable records began in 1992. Last month the number of young people unemployed rose by 18,000. The latest figures are published on Wednesday. 
  • Of those, 227,000 young people (aged 18-24) have been unemployed for more than a year, the highest for 17 years.        
  • Overall, 867,000 people have been unemployed for more than a year, the highest for 15 years.

The report says that UK apprenticeships should move closer to those found on the Continent, particularly those in Germany. It contrasts the UK and German youth unemployment rates (15-24s) since the global financial crisis:

2008: UK 15% / Germany 10.6%

2009: UK 19.1% / Germany 11.2%

2010: UK 19.6% / Germany 9.9%

2011: UK 20.4% / Germany 8.9% (note Q2 figs)

Nick Pearce, IPPR Director, said:

“Apprenticeships can help young people break out of the unemployment trap by offering additional general education, the chance to learn the ‘soft skills’ that employers often demand and specific job-related training. 

“But employers have become increasingly reluctant to hire school leavers. Employers need more support to set up apprenticeship programmes, particularly when they are hiring apprentices for the first time. Channelling more apprenticeship funding directly to employers rather than through training providers could help address this problem.”

Notes to Editors

IPPR’s new report – ‘Rethinking apprenticeships’ - is available in advance from the IPPR press office and will be available from: 

‘Rethinking Apprenticeships’ will be launched by John Hayes MP, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, who has contributed a chapter, on Tuesday 15 November at AoC’s Annual Conference and Exhibition in Birmingham. For further information about the book launch please contact AoC’s National Press Officer Helen Galley on 020 7034 9973 or 07920 204364 or email at

The latest unemployment figures are available from:

The latest comparable figures for youth unemployment (15-24 year olds) across Europe are available from: 

Apprenticeships have increased by 58 per cent from 2009/10 to 2010/11, from 279,700 to 442,700. However the vast majority of these increases have gone to adults aged over 25s (see above). 


Richard Darlington, 07525 481 602, 

Tim Finch, 07595 920899,

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