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Most apprenticeship dropouts in England blame poor quality programmes

Nearly half (47%) of all apprentices in England dropped out of their training in 2021, with a majority citing ‘poor quality’ as the reason behind their failure to complete.

According to a report by education think tank EDSK, 70% of apprentices who drop out of their training are concerned about the quality of their apprenticeship, equating to an estimated 115,000 people each year. 

Quality concerns reported by those who failed to complete the programme included complaints that apprenticeships were disorganised, unhelpful or lacking the rigorous training they expected. 

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Speaking to HR magazine Lizzie Crowley, senior skills adviser for the CIPD, said: “This research underlines the critical need to improve the quality of the apprentice experience and that sufficient oversight of the system is in place to stamp out poor practice.  

“Employers need to spend time in selecting the right provider to ensure that delivery of off-the-job learning is high quality, and that the right support system is in place internally to ensure that apprentices can transfer their learning and develop in their role.” 

EDSK’s No train, no gain report was published a decade after David Cameron's government undertook the Richard Review, promising high-quality training in England, favouring an ‘employer-led’ approach. 

Pressing government to address the high dropout rate of apprenticeships, the report made seven recommendations which included a public restatement of the commitment to high-quality apprenticeships, and withdrawals for any programmes that do not meet this standard. 

It also recommended that a minimum of 200 hours of any training curriculum should be delivered face-to-face to prevent employers or apprenticeship providers from shirking their responsibility to trainees. 

In the executive summary, report authors Tom Richmond, director EDSK and researcher Eleanor Regan, stated: “The only way to eradicate poor provision and substandard training within the apprenticeship system is for the government to now set a much higher bar for what constitutes ‘quality’ as well as consistently enforcing the rules and procedures that were intended to protect apprentices from malpractice and exploitation.” 

In addition to reforming apprenticeships, there have been several demands to reform the apprenticeship levy, including a campaign from the CIPD. 

One of the key complaints of the current levy system is a lack of flexibility in how it can be spent.