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Exploring Apprenticeships in the North East LEP area

This research aims to explore and understand the apprenticeship landscape, and provide clear recommendations to support more young people moving into apprenticeship opportunities. 


In 2022, the North East LEP commissioned Wavehill to undertake a research project focused on exploring the scale of apprenticeship recruitment and retention and to test the assumptions identified as a priority for the Apprenticeship Provider Group. The ambition was to provide a set of actionable priorities for increasing the number of young people starting and sustaining apprenticeships. 

The Apprenticeship Provider Group brings together all of the nine General Further Education (GFE) Colleges' Strategic Leads for Apprenticeships, the Chair of the North East Learning Provider Network and the Skills Advisory Panel's Independent Training Provider representation. It also incorporates the North East Apprenticeship Ambassador Network Regional Lead, and representatives from the Education Skills Funding Agency and Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), and is facilitated by the North East LEP. 

During the pandemic the group met twice a term and during this period it was evident that the recruitment of apprenticeships, especially for the younger age groups of 16-18 year olds, was increasingly more problematic than it was for adult apprenticeships. Provider group discussions revealed that whilst it was "felt" the region's experiences mirrored those reflected nationally, there had been a longstanding concern and decline in apprenticeships prior to March 2020. The pandemic had exacerbated this with the provider group agreeing there was high value in undertaking empirical research, in the absence of any current, regional deep dives into apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds. The aim being to arrive at evidence-based conclusions and actionable priorities to increase apprenticeship recruitment and retention.

Research methodology

The project involved a rigorous research methodology including: 

  • Analysis of responses to a short pulse survey designed by the North East LEP and the Apprenticeship Provider Group in 2022 which looked to explore local employers’ views of recruiting apprentices into their organisations.
  • A review of evidence and literature relating to recruitment and employment of apprentices
  • Scoping interviews with a range of providers and regional stakeholders including DfE’s Regional Contractor for the Apprenticeship, Support and Knowledge (ASK) programme, the North East Apprenticeship Ambassador Network (NEAAN) and Career Hub Leads from across the North East LEP area.
  • Analysis of data on a range of apprenticeship metrics sourced from DfE, providers across the North East LEP area, ONS and data from the Find an Apprenticeship website.
  • Interviews with 15 employers covering a range of sectors and sizes across the North East LEP area, exploring their experience of employing apprentices.
  • Five focus groups with 30 young people from two GFE colleges and three additional employers to explore apprenticeship opportunities. Discussions explored their knowledge of apprenticeships, decision-making approach to career aspirations, and recruitment practices.

Research assumptions

Assumption 1: Apprenticeship vacancy content fails to attract the attention of 16–18-year-olds.

The nature of the role, responsibilities, support and progression opportunities available are unclear. In addition, knowing where and how to access apprenticeship vacancies is unclear.

Assumption 2: Employers lack understanding of their role in supporting 16–18-year-old apprentices.

From what it means to introduce a young person into their workplace and the level of work experience a new apprentice may or may not bring with them, through to end point assessment requirements, resulting in them being ill prepared to sustain a positive experience for the business and the apprentice.

Assumption 3: Recruitment and selection processes require improvement.

Some suggest that processes have changed significantly, with those responsible for supporting learners out of date and thus failing to adequately prepare learners; whilst others suggest that despite a desire to promote social mobility and diverse workforces the processes applied could negatively affect the very talent they are seeking to attract.

Steady decrease of apprenticeship starts

both nationally and regionally between 2016/17 and 2020/21.

Intermediate level starts have reduced

across all local authorities since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy.

Business, Admin and Law and Health, Public Services and Care

have the greatest number of apprenticeship starts.


applications per available vacancy

had been submitted through Find an Apprenticeship. 


providers had live adverts

on Find an Apprenticeship over the year. 

Understanding the policy and labour market context 

Analysis of the apprenticeship landscape in the North East LEP area was conducted in the context of policy and labour market performanceAnalysis of the strategic priorities and labour market challenges facing the region reveals a widening gap between regional and national unemployment rates and high numbers of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) which are, in turn, reflected in an inferior performance in terms of apprenticeship starts and achievements in the North East LEP area compared to the England average.

Policy context 

The design, funding, management and delivery of apprenticeships has evolved considerably in the last 5-10 years. Key shifts include those prompted by the Richard Review and the Government’s Apprenticeships Reform Programme in 2015 which sought to overhaul the apprenticeships system. Other policy reflections include: 

  • A lack of understanding of opportunities that apprenticeships present and inconsistency in information provied to young people particularly around salary, qualification requirements and career opportunities. 
  • The perceived and actual low levels of pay associated with apprenticeships were identified as a barrier and could be compounded by wider family pressures and the loss of benefits when starting an apprenticeship rather than staying in full time education. 
  • Minimum qualification requirements are making apprenticeship routes increasingly unobtainable for the lowest-attaining young people.
  • There is misunderstanding around aspects of apprenticeship reform including time spent on off-the-job training, administration burden and the perceived ability of level 2 learners and the resource required to support them.

Apprenticeship data 

To explore the latest key trends in apprenticeship data, please follow the links to pages on the North East evidence hub below.  


Apprenticeship achievements and starts

Apprenticeship outcomes

The evidence hub includes 2021/22 Department for Education data that was published after this analysis was written. Key trends to 2020/21 that feed into the content of this report are shown in the charts below.

Find An Apprenticeship

In addition to DfE data, the Find An Apprenticeship website provides a more nuanced dataset.

Find An Apprenticeship is a government website used to promote apprenticeship opportunities across England. It is estimated that roughly one third of all apprenticeships nationally are advertised through Find An Apprenticeship. The dataset has been formed from 28,000 weekly data entries to the service from each local authority in the North East LEP area for the year from August 2021 to July 2022. It includes 4,783 unique adverts relating to a total of 6,806 vacancies across 52 different sector categories.

Key findings include: 


  • The majority (57%) of adverts were for apprenticeships at Advanced level, followed by Intermediate level apprenticeships (39%). This contradicts DfE data (21/22) on apprenticeship starts where higher-level apprenticeships account for 25% of starts.
  • Vacancies are in business (27%), followed by customer services (11%), digital industries (9%), and health and science (9%). The sectors receiving the highest number of applications are broadly consistent with the sectors that have the most available positions.
  • In total, 19,007 applications had been submitted through Find an Apprenticeship which equates to 2.8 applications per available vacancy. However, there remains a high number of live vacancies.
  • Dental health receives the highest number of applications per vacancy. The food and drink sector, digital industries and the hospitality sector saw fewer applications per vacancy in comparison.
  • By local authority, Newcastle receives the lowest number of applications per vacancy (2.13) compared to South Tyneside which receives the highest number (3.85).
  • 268 providers had live adverts on Find an Apprenticeship over the course of the year including four GFE colleges and a selection of ITPs. The selection of training providers and relatively small number of adverts confirms the platform’s relatively small coverage of overall vacancies.    
  • 74% of vacancies paid between £150.01 and £200 per week, (i.e. in line with the National Minimum Wage).

This dataset doesn’t currently include how many applications went on to be successful or indeed the number of adverts on Find An Apprenticeship that led to an apprenticeship start. Capturing this data in future could better inform analysis of the regional and national picture around unfilled and filled apprenticeship vacancies.

Testing the research assumptions 

This section brings together the primary research findings and sets out whether assumptions have been upheld.

Assumption 1 - Apprenticeship vacancy content fails to attract the attention of 16 - 18 year olds. 

The nature of the role, repsonsibilities, support and progression opportunities available are unclear. In addition, knowing where and how to access apprenticeship vacanices is unclear.

Accessing CEIAG to inform apprenticeship pathways

Any assessment of vacancy content needs to incorporate young people’s existing knowledge of apprenticeships and the channels used to inform them of the short and longer-term benefits associated with the opportunities being discussed. Significantly, only one or two young people on average in each focus group could remember receiving Careers, Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) at school. This suggests either the absence of careers guidance in schools, or the provision of ineffective CEIAG.

Young people also raised a logical point in discussions about the right time to ‘narrow down’ their options. Accessing a Level 2 apprenticeship at 16 for example was widely agreed to limit future options, a point aggravated by a lack of quality CEIAG to help form a tangible study path. People were generally happier to spend two years at college to build their skills and knowledge of what is available before making a decision on a targeted career path.

Employers also raised concerns about lack of quality CEIAG in schools to articulate and inform study and career options. This included inconsistent approaches to employer engagement activities which fail to generate meaningful outcomes for both learners and employers.

Consultation with providers and sector stakeholders largely confirmed the findings from the literature review, highlighting a range of capacity, organisational and political barriers to learners accessing an adequate amount and quality of CEIAG. This scenario is linked to falling numbers of apprenticeship starts and withdrawals from a variety of inappropriate pathways.

There was recognition however that the updated provider access legislation coming into force in January 2023 may improve matters, with schools required to provide at least six encounters with approved providers of apprenticeships and technical education.

Promoting apprenticeships

Existing research finds that routes into employment via A-levels and university are often seen to be more attractive to young people[1]. This is further compounded by family and peers not being supportive of alternative pathways. There is often a lack of information around apprenticeships and the opportunities they may present[2]. Additionally, apprenticeship outreach was found to be much less developed than outreach conducted by universities, reducing awareness of apprenticeships amongst young people.

The role of key influencers and the value of trusted relationships was raised by stakeholders as both a challenge and an opportunity. Some providers have invested in information for those exploring apprenticeships including learners and parents. However, the relative time and importance schools are able/willing to place on CEIAG, (e.g. anecdotally only around one in 10 schools will employ a full time careers advisor) in relation to apprenticeships in particular limits the efficacy of the available information. 

Discussions with young people about CEIAG indicated that there are challenges around limited or misinformation on apprenticeships, including where to find out about the opportunities and future career pathways. Young people also indicated a lack of knowledge of future study or career options more generally, with some seeing college as a ‘safe option’ over attending university or getting a job. Furthermore, students from different backgrounds highlighted a disparity in career aspirations which could be linked to exposure to CEIAG and levels of deprivation in the college catchment area. Targeted support for harder to reach individuals could improve career aspirations.

Stakeholders highlighted that whilst there is no shortage of information available to inform all interested on the detail and opportunities presented by apprenticeships, there remains a range of barriers to transferring this information in the desired speed, quantity and effectiveness to learners, parents and smaller employers in particular.

For colleges, there are acknowledged issues and risks including the relatively low pass rates compared to other qualifications, reputational risks linked to apprenticeship provision within the inspection framework, constant change to apprenticeship guidance and the demands around administration requirements[3]

Accessing and engaging microbusinesses and smaller SMEs can be challenging, given the relative lack of time, knowledge or understanding of recruitment solutions. In contrast, focus group findings illustrated the power of direct contact with businesses in transferring information on career aspirations and inspiring young people’s futures. The impact of even a short session to discuss opportunities and respond to even the simplest of queries reaffirmed the benefits of targeted employer engagement.  

Linked to the provision of CEIAG at school, the use of wider and more intensive advertising to raise awareness of apprenticeships is required. Importantly, there was consensus that the use of wider advertising should be targeted not only at young people but key influencers including parents that support or guide decision-making.

Apprenticeship vacancy content

The overall content of the four vacancies analysed by young people during the research generated little criticism in terms of content or style. The few points raised by young people to improve the impact of the vacancies and associated job descriptions did include the power of visuals on the vacancy and linked documentation to attract applicants; information on future career options that the apprenticeship could generate; and greater clarity on the support that apprentices would receive.

Most queries raised during discussions with employers were linked to practical aspects of the roles and full-time employment more generally, reflecting a lack of knowledge, awareness or exposure to working environments. Training providers and sector representatives raised the following issues with vacancy information: lack of clarity on role and subject descriptions; use of technical language; inconsistency in skills or competency levels across similar jobs; and inability to explain opportunities in sufficient detail on the website.

Approximately half of the employers consulted outlined specific areas of good practice in the design and content for advertising apprenticeship opportunities. Examples included:

  • Incorporating details of non-work aspects of the job role that increase the attractiveness of the apprenticeship. This could include: details of leisure opportunities, staff wellbeing activities, facilities available or quality of working-life.
  • Highlighting the company's approach to environmental and sustainability issues in line with heightened awareness of these areas amongst younger people.
  • Assessing the language of opportunities, for example, in job roles traditionally associated with men to help attract female candidates.
  • Producing supplementary guidance for prospective apprentices including information on career prospects, case studies, benefits of apprenticeships etc.

Employers highlighted some wider developments in the availability of specific apprenticeship standards. The non-availability of the Business Administration standard at Level 2 was widely highlighted as affecting many employers’ usual approach to providing an entry-level route into multiple facets of the business. The typical switch to a Customer Service qualification at Level 2 was stated by both employers and training providers as proving to be a ’tougher sell’ to young people who struggled to see the link to the job role applied for. Consultation also stressed that the declining number of lower-level apprenticeships available often results in young people accessing inappropriate courses and increases withdrawal rates.

Accessing apprenticeship vacancies

There were also a raft of frustrations raised by providers in particular in relation to the efficacy of the Find an Apprenticeship website. These include:

  • The time for vacancies to be approved
  • The relative inaccessibility of parts of the website to young people seeking details of opportunities, (i.e. number of clicks)
  • The more user friendly set up and operation of alternative sites including Indeed[1] and NotGoingToUni[2]
  • The lack of flexibility when trying to alter vacancy adverts
  • Restrictive and variably applied content guidance

Assumption 2 - Employers lack understanding of their role in supporting 16 - 18 year old apprentices. 

This includes from what it means to introduce a young person into their workplace and the level of work experience a new apprentice may or may not bring with them, through to end point assessment requirements, resulting in them being ill prepared to sustain a positive experience for the business and the apprentice.

Employer motivations

Based on a short pulse survey exploring local employers’ views on recruiting apprentices[1], the most common factor motivating employers to recruit apprentices was the production of well-trained employees, and being able to train and shape the individuals to become valued, long term employees at their organisation.

The most common barrier employers faced when hiring apprentices was the financial cost. This included covering the cost of the apprentice in terms of their salary. Employers acknowledged the value of funding and grants that help to cover such costs, but suggested any cuts to such funding would minimise their ability to recruit apprentices.

COVID-19 had further compounded these issues, and a report by the Sutton Trust looking into the impacts of COVID-19 on apprenticeships found that due to the pandemic, businesses were already facing challenges with existing apprentices such as furlough and disruption to on the job learning, meaning employers were unlikely to be recruiting new apprentices at the same scale.

  1. ^ The survey was distributed by the colleges sitting on the Apprenticeship Provider Group to the employers they work with. A total of 47 local employers responded to the survey.


Role of the employer

Consultation confirmed a need to realign the expectations of employers as to the ‘work readiness’, maturity, skills and knowledge of a 16-18-year-old apprentice. Whilst there was agreement of the benefits of moulding a young person to meet the needs of the business, the main concerns associated with employing 16-18-year-old apprentices included a lack of awareness of working culture and responsibilities of employees; and a need for greater pastoral support and supervision due to lack of maturity and travel challenges.

The desk-based research also confirmed employer concerns around the perceived ability of learners at Level 2 standard. This related to the English, maths and IT functional skills requirements and the End Point Assessment, with employers expressing unease about how the assessments would work, and what would happen if their employees didn’t pass[1]

Recruiting suitable young people is also difficult for employers, SMEs are particularly impacted[2]. Often, a lack of relevant work and life experience was cited as a barrier for recruiting young people into apprenticeships. Consequently, employers are required to commit substantial time and resource to help train and develop apprentices, which may not be viable[3]

Recruiting under 18-year-olds also raised concerns relating to employment legislation for consulted employers. This included health and safety legislation (e.g. amending risk assessments); working hours guidance (e.g. inability to work night shifts); and practical issues such as lack of mobility if unable to drive or have access to a car.

There was recognition however of the benefit of even a short, (e.g. up to six weeks) programme of pre-employment support. With relevance to Traineeships[4] for those aged 16+ or a Skills Bootcamp[5] for those aged 19+, employers recognised the value of exposing young people to both the vocational and transferable skills and knowledge to be successful in employment.

Sub-regional employers including the NHS also highlighted the benefits of engagement work with schools, colleges and other training providers to increase knowledge of the roles available and apprenticeship and wider training that can be accessed to realise progression opportunities. Employer engagement opportunities ranged from ‘summer schools’ to increase awareness of potential jobs and careers, to longer-term CEIAG work with schools and more targeted workshops with students in colleges to inform next steps.

Supporting End Point Assessment

Consultations with employers highlights some confusion on the apprenticeship journey and the complementarity between apprenticeships and other qualifications including T Levels[1]. Representatives of larger employers believed that these issues would be exacerbated amongst SMEs and microbusinesses without a dedicated training function. 

DfE[2] have explored the continuing decline of Level 2 and 3 apprenticeship starts. Businesses have concerns around the newly introduced off-the-job training requirements and the time commitment required by apprentices and potential costs associated e.g. arranging staff cover. Businesses stated that the 20% of on-the-job training time was administratively burdensome, especially the evidence requirements on the training, and the need to arrange apprentices’ time off and organise cover.

SMEs who often do not have a distinct training or Human Resource (HR) function, were stated to find the additional administration particularly challenging. As such, it was reported that SMEs found Level 2 apprenticeships less beneficial to the organisation in terms of value added, compared to other higher level apprenticeships.

A North East LEP survey of employers provided suggestions for where support should be more available or visible. This included advice on the 20% off-the-job learning rule set; additional support on navigating the North East Apprenticeship website; and greater awareness of the  Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network.


A recent Apprentice Evaluation[1] found that four out of 10 non-completers reported personal or domestic factors for their non-completion, most notably career or job changes, mental health issues and caring responsibilities. Apprenticeship-related reasons included not having enough time for learning or training, training not meeting their expectations or poorly run/organised apprenticeship.

Wider literature states apprenticeship withdrawals are linked to a lack of support from employer and training providers[2],[3] and therefore, improving the support offer and communication may help reduce withdrawal rates. Support valued by apprentices included 1:1 time with line managers, mentoring opportunities, group tutorials and regular meetings[4].  Furthermore, having protected time to enable apprentices to focus on their studies would also improve retention. Research published by the Institute for Apprentices recommended the use of ‘commitment statements’ which set out roles and responsibilities between apprentice, employer and training provider that details how all parties can work together to deliver the best possible outcome[4].

When looking at issues specifically on under 19s accessing apprenticeships, research highlighted issues around the level of information apprentices received prior to starting their role, including salary information, career opportunities and qualification requirements[5]. Lack of information on their programmes and assessments was also identified as one of the most common reasons for apprenticeship withdrawals.[6]

A survey of employers undertaken by the North East LEP found that take up rates and successful retention in apprenticeships varies between sectors, with one employer suggesting that, in their experience, Level 3 apprentices proved to be more successful than a Level 1 or 2, and another employer suggesting whilst they can fill vacancies in business and finance, they struggle to see the same take-up rate for administrative apprenticeships.

  1. ^
  2. ^ Note: Other factors included poor organisation of the apprenticeship programme; poor quality of teaching; high workload; and was apprentices losing interest or motivation
  3. ^
  4. ^ Apprentice Panel Survey Report
  5. ^
  6. ^



Whilst a salient point in relation to promoting apprenticeships overall, one of the main issues and support needs young people face in relation to apprenticeships is salary. The DfE's evaluation of apprenticeships reported that those aged 25 or over earned substantially more than their counterparts (median gross hourly pay of £12.23, compared with £9.52 among those aged between 19 and 24 and £6.58 among those aged under 19). By sector subject area, pay was highest in business (£12.73 an hour) and ICT (£11.64) and lowest in leisure (£6.56). Those undertaking apprenticeship standards earned more than those on frameworks (£10.02 and £9.12 an hour respectively)[1]

This is linked to the national living wage which for apprentices under 19 is £4.81. This rises to the actual minimum wage of £6.83 for those 19+ beyond their first year. Wages have been cited as a barrier to the recruitment and retention of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in particular to apprenticeships, with travel-to-work costs not covered effectively enough by apprenticeship pay. This is especially the case for young people accessing more specialised apprenticeship opportunities which are not available in their local area[2]

Assumption 3 - Recruitment and selection processes require improvement 

Some suggest that processes have changed significantly, with those responsible for supporting learners out of date and thus failing to adequately prepare learners; whilst others suggest that despite a desire to promote social mobility and diverse workforces the processes applied could negatively affect the very talent they are seeking to attract.

There were calls to explore the potential for greater diversity in the applications for some apprenticeships, with the desire to promote the opportunities in female dominated sectors, including retail and care, to young men. However, there are barriers to achieving this, with colleges highlighting the correlation between wider family financial pressures and loss of benefits when starting an apprenticeship, rather than staying in education for 16-18 year olds[1]

Stakeholders highlighted a growing trend for young people, and their families, to focus more on short term gains associated with part time or full time employment options rather than the longer-term income potential associated with a longer career initiated through an apprenticeship. This again highlights the financial pressures faced by many families in the region which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis more recently.

Additionally, an Investors in People survey found that a higher salary would encourage parents to push an apprenticeship as a viable option for their child[2].This is especially important for more disadvantaged families where it is likely parents are less able to provide financial support for their child to take up a low salary apprenticeship.

Consultation also highlighted the wider impact of COVID-19 on potential apprentices, and their families, linked to the disruption and uncertainty caused. The resultant labour market contraction, reduction in job opportunities and rise of a range of socioeconomic consequences including increased mental health problems amongst young people are thought to have resulted in a reduced desire to take perceived risks, with full time education assumed to be a ‘safer option’ than an apprenticeship.  

Larger companies with the need and required demand to advertise vacancies on a national basis (i.e. given specialist nature of the roles or sector) outlined the scale of the task in shortlisting from, for example, in excess of 1,000 applicants. In these instances employers were more likely to utilise the Find an Apprenticeship website[3] in conjunction with their own website and social media channels to promote apprenticeship opportunities.

The more local an employer’s focus and, more specifically, apprenticeship catchment area, the more nuanced an approach to recruitment to generate a response of the direct number and quality.

Employers use a variety of formal and informal recruitment channels including developing trusted relationship with training providers and identifying potential candidates with enhanced knowledge of the role, sector and skills requirements through ‘traineeships’ or pre-employment initiatives.

  1. ^ Further data analysis is required to understand the impact in deprived areas
  2. ^
  3. ^ Find an apprenticeship - GOV.UK (


Employers outlined challenges associated with identifying, reducing and shortlisting candidates responding to apprenticeship vacancies. They highlighted both a range of minimum entry requirements and the use of interviews, aptitude tests and assessment centres to identify the best candidates for their vacancies.

Existing research reveals that minimum English and maths entry requirements for the majority of intermediate and advanced apprenticeships are increasingly making apprenticeships an unobtainable route into employment for the lowest-attaining young people[1] This is a particularly pertinent issue for the North East.

Employers are requesting specific minimum requirements to reduce costs, additional support and training required. The National Federation for Educational Research (NFER) suggests making it more financially attractive for employers, colleges and training providers to take on apprentices without English and maths GCSE requirements could be a key way of overcoming this barrier[2].

With the notable exception of those citing employment legislation as a factor limiting the employment of under18-year-olds, there is a general consensus that most selection processes tend to favour slightly older candidates.

Employers generally agreed that those aged 18 or above will be more likely to have better developed transferable skills, be more mature and require less supervision when compared with less experienced, younger competitors for apprenticeship opportunities. Employers also highlighted the value of the extra two years of data from which to make recruitment decision when comparing 16 and 18-year-olds, therefore pushing their decisions towards older candidates to fill Level 3 vacancies.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The following section appraises the degree to which the assumptions underpinning the research parameters are upheld or disproved. It also sets out the key recommendations in relation to each assumption. 

Assumption 1

Apprenticeship vacancy content fails to attract the attention of 16 - 18 year olds 

This assumption is mostly upheld. 

Assumption 2

Employers lack understanding of their role in supporting 16 to 18-year-old apprenticeships. 

This assumption is mostly upheld. 

Assumption 3

Recruitment and selection processes require improvement. 

This assumption is mostly upheld. 

Apprenticeship vacancy content fails to attract the attention of 16 - 18 year olds 

There is a need to recognise that any assessment of vacancy content needs to encompass young people’s existing knowledge of apprenticeships. The CEIAG, including employer engagement activities, to inform young people and their families of the short and longer-term benefits associated with apprenticeships is therefore of utmost importance. Consultation highlighted the need for improvement in the Find an Apprenticeship website alongside the merits of practical information within the vacancy details to highlight progression opportunities and the company ethos, and the use of inclusive language and appropriate use of visuals to describe the opportunity.

The quality and inequity of provision of CEIAG in schools across the North East LEP area should be addressed as a priority. Currently, the lack of focus on apprenticeships and dearth of meaningful employer engagement is restricting young people’s ability to make informed decisions about their study pathways at 16. Key considerations should include:

  • Increasing access to information on the full range of career options and the linked study options through which to fulfil them.
  • Developing three-way dialogue between schools, providers and employers to plan and deliver targeted and bespoke meaningful employer interventions (i.e. visits, talks, Q&As, work experience etc.) for individual and small groups of young people. Interventions should be informed by prior CEIAG for young people and should benefit from employer input in order to help achieve their objectives whilst evidencing progress towards the updated Provider Access Legislation (PAL).
  • Targeting specific CEIAG initiatives in areas of higher relative deprivation to help raise aspirations and overcome financial, generational and social barriers to younger people seeing apprenticeships as part of their career pathways. 
  • Providing accessible CEIAG information for key influencers in young people’s lives including parents.
  • Working to ensure schools and CEIAG practitioners promote apprenticeships and technical education more widely as a visible and viable study option alongside traditional academic routes.  

Increasing use of the Find an Apprenticeship website by improving its accessibility and attractiveness for all parties as part of a more targeted and joined up digital approach to promoting and facilitating take up of apprenticeships amongst younger people. This should include:

  • A reduction in the bureaucracy associated with uploading and amending vacancy data
  • Reducing the number of click-throughs to access vacancy information
  • Enhancing the search experience
  • Bringing the user experience closer to that of a private sector recruitment portal such as Indeed or NotGoingToUni, incorporating use of individual and CV information to speed up application procedures

Assessing the ongoing efficiacy of the digital support for apprenticeships with a focus on: 

  • The importance of targeted social media for key audiences, (e.g. Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat)
  • The value of positive and inspirational narratives, (e.g. Royal Navy recruitment campaign) and role models, (e.g. STEM ambassadors)
  • Targeted content and resources for key influencers, (e.g. parents and carers as well as employers, teachers/schools) to reinforce the digital presence

The North East LEP to engage with national stakeholders such as Amazing Apprenticeships[1] and Apprentice Nation[2] to develop and test a targeted promotional campaign involving both the LEPs in the region to boost the provision (by employers recognising the value) and take-up (by young people) of apprenticeships. The campaign should:

  1. Focus on priority areas and identified sectors with skills gaps and where Apprenticeship Standards are failing to attract sufficient take-up relative to demand
  2. Utilise a narrative approach with dual messages for young people and parents/key influencers which emphasises the range of short, medium and longer-term benefits of apprenticeships for employees and employers

The availability of more consistent apprenticeship data can help strategic stakeholders, (e.g.  local skills improvement plans) and training providers to identify supply side issues, gaps in labour market information and inform the work of careers practitioners.    

There is value in agreeing a core data set to inform analysis of take-up of apprenticeships to generate accurate intelligence and help analyse the effectiveness of recruitment activities. Priorities should include:

  • Aligning Find an Apprenticeship data to wider DfE datasets, (e.g. sector and standards, location of apprenticeship role, pay etc.)
  • Providing guidance to providers on the value of, and best approach to generating better intelligence around unfilled and harder to fill apprenticeship vacancies

Employers lack understanding of their role in supporting 16 - 18 year old apprentices 

Both existing research and consultation with employers identified a need to realign the expectations of employers as to the ‘work readiness’, maturity, skills and knowledge of a 16 to 18-year-old apprentice. The desire to shape well-trained employees from an early age should also be approached in the context of a better understanding of apprenticeships within the wider technical education offer.  

There is a need to increase understanding of employer requirements from younger apprentices by:

  • Consulting with employers, subject leaders in schools and young people to agree a core set of characteristics and values in order to help meet employer expectations
  • Nurturing and developing agreed skills and qualities in young people based on a review of existing readiness training for young people to identify good practice
  • Ensuring employers have a sufficient understanding of apprenticeships and the wider technical education offer

Work should continue to encourage more employers to employ young people through apprenticeships and minimise non-completions by improving the availability, efficiency and effectiveness of end-point assessments.

Recruitment and selection processes require improvement 

Both existing research and consultation with employers identified a need to realign the expectations of employers as to the ‘work readiness’, maturity, skills and knowledge of a 16-18 year old apprentice. The desire to shape well-trained employees from an early age should also be undertaken in the context of a better understanding of apprenticeships within the wider technical education offer.  

Academic entry requirements, (e.g. minimum English and maths) for the majority of intermediate and advanced apprenticeships are increasingly making apprenticeships an unobtainable route into employment for the lowest-attaining young people. Given the low attainment rates in the region, a review of entry requirements for apprenticeships should be undertaken in order to maximise the engagement of young people for whom vocational education represents the best option.  

The North East LEP to develop good practice guidance in the design of apprenticeship vacancy content in conjunction with employers, training providers and the facilitators of the Find an Apprenticeship website. Suggested guidance should include:

  • Regular reviews of language to ensure equality of opportunity and targeting of under-represented groups in specific sectors and/or job roles
  • Increased use of ‘sticky paragraphs’ to raise the profile of jobs and employers by emphasising non-vocational added value including leisure opportunities and availability of facilities
  • Clear indication of progression opportunities explained in terms of further study options, linked job roles and associated salaries
  • Ensuring the careful use of illustrations to complement the opportunity without misleading the reader
  • Minimising the length of vacancy and related content to maintain focus and interest of younger people.

Employers heralded the benefits of pre-employment support to increase the readiness of younger people to be able to access and maximise the benefit of apprenticeships. It is recommended that:

  • Pre-employment support to be promoted for all learners aged 16-18 looking to apply for an apprenticeship rather than being an intervention aimed primarily at those at the margins of the labour market
  • An ‘apprenticeship-ready’ trial programme be developed and tested in order to allow young people to gain an understanding of the apprenticeship model and enable employers to begin an extended recruitment process over a one to two week period

There is a need to minimise barriers to employers viewing apprenticeships as a viable option for under 18s. Guidance should be developed to:

  • Help employers plan for and meet legislative requirements when employing people aged under 18
  • Inform risk assessment templates and policies to minimise the perceived barriers to employing apprentices aged 16 to 18 years old

Research has found that the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy is linked to the decline in the proportion of intermediate level starts amongst all starts since 2016/17. Should recommendations be successful in increasing demand and take-up of apprenticeships amongst younger people, employers should be encouraged to make a more effective use of the Levy to support the training of Apprentices aged 16-18.