The number of individuals starting apprenticeships in England has fallen by 59%, according to figures published by the Department for Education (DfE).
The data showed that, between May and July of this year, only 48,000 people began an apprenticeship - a significant fall when compared to the same period in 2016, when 117,000 individuals entered into an apprenticeship.
Experts believe that the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017 has contributed to the fall in the number of workers beginning an apprenticeship.
The Levy was introduced as part of a government target to encourage the creation of three million apprenticeships in England by 2020, with the stated aim of providing ‘a more sustainable workforce and helping to bridge the UK skills gap’.
It changes the way in which apprenticeships are funded, requiring larger UK employers with pay bills of over £l3 million to invest a percentage of their annual pay bill in apprenticeships.
Commenting on the DfE data, Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: ‘Getting more people doing apprenticeships is critical, especially if we are to tackle the skills shortage biting many small firms.
‘The Apprenticeship Levy isn’t solely to blame for this drop. The reality is that 98% of firms don’t pay the levy, and these small businesses will be essential to the government reaching its target of three million apprenticeships by 2020.’