Data released yesterday showed that over 500,000 people took up an apprenticeship placement in the academic year 2011/2012.
The apprenticeship enrolment figure for 2011/2012 totalled 502,500, up from 457,200 in 2010/2011.
Government said that the statistics vindicated its investment in and support of vocational education. Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said that the rise “shows our [the UK’s] passion for skills, and is a ringing endorsement from employers and apprentices alike who are reaping the benefits of a more highly-skilled workforce.”
Mr Hancock said he was particularly pleased to see the growth in uptake despite the introduction of more rigorous apprenticeship quality regulation in the past year.
The strongest growth in apprenticeships was at higher and advanced levels, which Mr Hancock said will help to “open the road for people wanting to become engineers, lawyers and accountants.”
Mr Hancock urged all UK employers to get involved with apprenticeship provision, stating that work to safeguard the quality and employer focus of apprenticeship delivery is ongoing.
The minimum length of study for an apprenticeship in England and Wales was raised to 12 months in January this year in a bid to raise quality standard across sectors.
However, many in the engineering and manufacturing sectors still feel this is too short. A three year minimum is considered standard in these industries.
Commenting on the need for continued action on apprenticeship quality Tim Thomas, head of employment and skills at EEF said that the basic skills of those enrolling must improve.
“We must also continue to focus on driving up apprenticeship standards, ensuring that applicants have the required levels of attainment expected by employers in key subjects such as Maths and English,” he said.
Despite these concerns, Mr Thomas said the rise in apprenticeships – particularly those at higher and advanced levels will be welcomed by manufacturers. Looking forward, Mr Thomas said EEF would like to see “a twenty five per cent increase in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) apprenticeships at Level 3 or above in the next five years,” in order to effectively address gaps in industrial skills.