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The Covid crisis has seen apprenticeship starts in the UK fall by 46 percentage points overall in 2020, compared with 2019, with the worst affected sectors being health and social care, business management and hospitality.
A survey of apprenticeships by Small Business Prices, published to mark Apprenticeship Week (8-14 February, 2021), also revealed that despite the impact of Covid, health and social care was still the most popular choice for apprentices with more than 43,000 starts in 2019-20. This was double the number of starts in the fourth most popular sector: engineering.
The top earning apprentice role proved to be direct learning support and teaching (£28k and £24k respectively). However, it was considered by the report’s authors that some of the worst paid apprenticeships, such as animal and veterinary science (£8k) and media and communications (£11k) had far higher earnings potential once apprentices were fully qualified.
Overall, the number of apprenticeship starts during the initial lockdown, from 23 March to 31 July 2020 fell by 45.5 percentage points set against the same period last year. Health and social care was the worst-hit industry, with 11,063 (46%) fewer starts. Other sectors badly affected by the pandemic included administration (9,873 fewer), business management (7,031), hospitality and catering (5,411) and child development & wellbeing (5,261).
Ian Wright, founder of Small Business Prices, said: “Initial data released in July 2020 showed that apprenticeship starts had decreased by 50% compared with last year, but the final data set for 2020 showed a slightly less daunting figure at 46%. Despite the small uplift in apprenticeship starts, it is clear that the education landscape has been hit hard by Covid-19, with students now relying on virtual lessons and an on-screen relationship with teachers.”
On a more upbeat note he added: “But even during the pandemic, apprenticeships are an amazing opportunity for so many young people for whom going to university isn’t the right choice. It’s vital that younger generations should not have to suffer because of this. Companies will need support and guidance, both financially and with regards to best practice, to encourage young people to take up apprenticeships again even while the pandemic situation remains uncertain.”
Based on RateMyApprenticeship results, the survey also assessed which companies provided the best apprenticeships. The top five were:
- MOTUS Commercials – business
- BAE Systems – engineering/manufacturing
- Mitchells & Butlers – hospitality, leisure and tourism
- M&G – insurance, asset and investment management
- BT – IT and consultancy
Meanwhile, the UK’s oldest apprentice has been revealed. Bob Bryce, a 76-year-old who lives in Bedfordshire, works as a ticket inspector on Govia Thameslink Railway and is undertaking a level 3 supervisor apprenticeship – equivalent to an A-level. Although he left school more than 60 years ago he said he wanted to boost his leadership schools, adding: “It’s the best job I’ve ever had, which is why I want to keep working as long as possible.
“I’m on the home straight now with just one exam left to go. I think I must be the oldest apprentice in the UK. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn new things at my age.”
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