The number of UK apprenticeship starts in February was down by more than 10% on last year, government data shows, as companies hit by the Covid-19 crisis furloughed apprentices and made some redundant.

Figures published by the Department for Education showed that, during that month, 22,400 people started an apprenticeship, compared with 25,300 in 2019 – marking a decrease of 11.5%.

Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “New apprenticeship starts are falling off a cliff, and the more time the government vacillates over the Covid-19 guidance, the worse it’s going to get.”

His comments came after UK business schools hit back at controversial government plans to pull the plug on MBA apprenticeships, a move that is expected to be announced in June when the government publishes a review of the sector.

The fall in the number of apprenticeship starts reflects the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic on providers’ ability to deliver teaching and qualifications at a time when the vast majority of educational centres are closed. Many apprenticeship qualifications require learners to undergo on-the-job training that typically involves face-to-face learning, which is currently prohibited under social distancing rules.

This publication understands that several prominent UK apprenticeship providers have furloughed large cohorts of staff in efforts to cut costs.

Date published: 30 April 2020

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