The Minister for Skills, Matthew Hancock, revealed yesterday in a written answer to an MP the number of young people starting an apprenticeship during the last three academic years.

Apprenticeship programme starts by age and gender
  2010/11 full year
   2011/12 full year
2012/13 full year (provisional)
Under 19

Official figures for the last quarter (October to December) of 2012 show there were 153,000 people aged from 16 to 18 not in education, employment or training (NEET). That was the lowest figure in more than a decade for this quarter. This total represented about one in eleven of all under 19s in the UK at that time.

So we now know that at a particular point in the year 2012/13 there were 153,000 16 to 18 year olds in the NEET category while during the whole of that 12 month period 111,700 people of that age joined an apprenticeship programme. This means that there was an apparent shortfall in apprenticeships of 41,300 which is 37% of the total starting in that year.

The actual reality is much worse than this (already bad) figure suggests for two reasons:

  1. Many of the school leavers who would like an apprenticeship but have not been able to get one do not feature in the NEET statistics because they opted for a further education course to avoid simply being unemployed; and
  2. The figure of 153 thousand is a “snapshot” in time. Because there is a constant churning of the individuals who comprise the NEET group the actual number of 16-18 year olds experiencing unemployment during that 12 month period will have been significantly higher and therefore the shortfall in training provision is significantly worse.

It is worth remembering this kind of data when watching government ministers, responding to questions about the crisis in youth employment, trot out impressive statistics about their apprenticeships programme.

What else do the figures reveal, do you think?



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