The government’s apprenticeships drive is failing to deliver for young people in England – with enrolments flatlining among under-25s, a commission says.
The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission says apprenticeship starts for under-25s rose by 4% from 2010-14 , compared with 17% for over-25s.
And most training courses taken were not a step up from the apprentice’s previous level of study, it added.
No 10 said it was committed to getting more young people into apprenticeships.
The commission welcomed the government’s efforts to improve the number and quality of apprenticeships and said that for too long the vocational route to qualifications had been seen as an option for “other people’s children”.
But the report said: “The overall growth in apprenticeship starts has been driven by large increases in participation by over-25s.
“While youth apprenticeships have roughly flatlined since the early years of the decade, starts by over 25s are over 150,000 higher in 2014/15 compared to 2009/10.
“In comparison to this increase there were over 5,000 fewer apprenticeship starts by under-19s in 2014/15 compared to 2010/11.
“And there were around 1,000 fewer 19-24 apprenticeship starts in 2014/15 compared to 2011/12.”
If this was projected forward, then adult apprenticeship starts would continue to increase, while youth starts would stagnate or decline, it added.
The commission also highlighted how the vast majority of apprentices were studying at levels below their age.
For example, 68% of A-level age apprentices were studying apprenticeships at GCSE-level and 98% of degree-age apprentices were studying at A-level equivalent or lower, the report said.
It also highlighted how many youth apprenticeship starts were in sectors associated with lower pay and prospects for progress, such as construction skills and hairdressing.
Commission chairman Alan Milburn said: “The government is committed to giving all young people a chance to make something of their lives, but the current drive to increase the number of apprenticeships isn’t delivering for people under the age of 24.
“The number of young apprentices has flatlined since 2010 and many of these apprenticeships don’t offer young people a foundation they can build on.
“The government needs to increase the quality of apprenticeships on offer to young people and make sure that every apprenticeship offers a genuine route to success.”
A government spokesman said an extra £25m had been allocated for recruiting 16 to 18-year-olds into apprenticeships to support the government’s pledge to deliver three million apprentices by 2020.
“Apprenticeships give school leavers the opportunity to gain the skills they need to get on,” he added.
“Our reforms mean apprenticeships are more rigorously tested, last longer and are more responsive to the needs of employers.”