Darlington-based national training provider Baltic Apprenticeships has produced a report on the current apprenticeship landscape, highlighting a lack of incentives for SMEs and organisations hiring under 19s, which has caused a steep decline in apprenticeship starts.

The report in conjunction with GK Strategy has already received strong support from a roundtable held in parliament from representatives for The Princes Trust, Amazing Apprenticeships, CBI, Youth Employment UK, The IoD, Learning and Work Institute, the Edge Foundation and more.

The ‘Unleashing Potential: Unlocking Opportunities for Young Apprentices’ (2024) report has identified prevalent issues within the UK’s current apprenticeship and wider skills system as apprenticeship starts for 16 – 18-year-olds continue to decline.

In 2013, 5% of 16-year-old school leavers started an apprenticeship. However, in 2023, with more than twice the number of apprenticeship standards available across diverse sectors, only 4% of 16-year-old school leavers started an apprenticeship.

A key concern is the Apprenticeship Levy scheme which has changed the trajectory of apprenticeships, a system originally designed to provide young people an accessible route into employment. Since the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in 2017, under-19 apprenticeship starts have dropped by 41% and SME apprenticeship starts have dropped by 49%.

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Baltic Apprenticeships provides five key recommendations within the 2024 report: Protect the spirit of apprenticeships; Create true parity of esteem for apprenticeships; Build in-demand skills that support economic growth; Co-ordinate apprenticeship recruitment to match year 11 and 13 decision-making - and stop expecting the impossible from school career advisors

Joanna Wake, Director of Public Affairs at Baltic Apprenticeships, said: “Our economy can only grow if businesses can grow, and skills have hindered business growth for too long, whilst the impact of apprenticeships on skills gaps is well documented. We must now unite and act to create opportunities for our young people who want to take the apprenticeship route.”