Are apprenticeships worth it?

... indubitably, by the looks of things. The National Audit Office reckons apprenticeships return £18 for every £1 invested by firms.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
National Apprenticeship Week is coming up, so it’s fitting that the National Audit Office has just had a good look at how well the Government is using the £500m it’s set aside to create apprenticeships. And the results are mixed: according to the report, the placements inject £18 into the economy for every £1 spent on them. But the NAO reckons the Government could get even more out of them, if it plays its cards right.

The good news is that the survey found the number of apprenticeships available has risen by 140% since 2006/7 – but the bad news is that over-25s account for more than two-thirds of that. And given high unemployment among the youngest members of the workforce – 16-24-year-olds – is the Government’s greatest challenge at the moment, that will have to change. Apparently, the biggest increases in apprenticeships have been in the health and social care, customer services, retail, and (interestingly) management sectors.

To be fair to the Government, Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, pointed out the Government’s apprenticeships programme is far better run than the Train to Gain scheme it replaced. But she added that to get the most out of it, ministers need to ‘target resources more effectively, confirm the training provided is in addition to what would have been provided without public support and make sure that the funding system is informed by robust information on the cost of delivery.’ In other words, keep a close eye on what’s being spent, by whom, on what. Seems fairly obvious...

What makes that even more meaningful is a separate report by City & Guilds (as in the qualifications), which has found that, if a million extra apprenticeships are created by next year, businesses could get an extra £4.4bn. Not bad. And it’s not just businesses that would be making some extra cash if investment in apprenticeships went up: apparently, Government coffers would get another £1.2bn in tax payments, too. When you put it that way, it seems rude not to…

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