Academic Year 2020/21

Apprenticeships in England by industry characteristics

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See all updates (3) for Academic Year 2020/21
  1. Re-upload of data following review of suppression policy (data unchanged)

  2. Small correction to IMD and ASA levy supported variables in underlying data.

  3. Small correction to text

Introduction

This publication presents statistics on apprenticeship starts and achievements by the industry characteristics of their employer.

It complements the headline Apprenticeship & Traineeship 2020/21 official statistics (published in November 2021), providing detailed information on the size and industry sector of the apprenticeship employers for that year.

Data from the Individualised Learner Record (ILR), Apprenticeship Service and Office for National Statistics Inter-departmental Business Register (IDBR) have been matched for the 2012/13 to 2020/21 academic years.

This allows information about apprentices to be linked to information about their employers, covering:

  • learner characteristics - age, gender, learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, ethnicity and whether they live in a relatively deprived area (based on the Index of Multiple Deprivation);
  • apprenticeship information - level, standard/framework, subject studied, geography of workplace and whether they were supported by levy funds from an Apprenticeship Service Account (ASA);
  • employer enterprise characteristics - industry sector, size band and legal status.

Please note that the ‘Explore data and files’ section contains the underlying files that underpin this release and allows users to interrogate and analyse the data for themselves. For pre-populated summary statistics used to create the graphs, please see the relevant section underneath, from which the data can be further explored using the ‘Explore data’ functionality. You can also view featured tables or create your own table using the ‘Create tables' functionality.


Headline facts and figures - 2020/21

  • In 2020/21 the number of apprenticeship starts in small employers (those with fewer than 50 employees) increased for the first time in five years, with starts 12% (9,770) higher than in 2019/20. Meanwhile, apprenticeship starts in medium sized employers (50-249 employees) fell slightly by 5% (or 1,700 starts) and large employers (250+ employees) also fell slightly by 3% (or 5,740 starts).
  • Apprenticeship starts are still below pre-pandemic levels in employers of all sizes - starts in small employers are 9% lower than in 2018/19, whilst starts in medium sized employers are 21% lower and large employers 20% lower.
  • SME's (0-249 employees) accounted for 41% of apprenticeship starts in 2020/21, up from 38% in 2019/20.
  • In 2020/21, most industry sectors still had fewer apprenticeship starts compared to 2018/19 (before the COVID-19 pandemic started to impact on starts), and most also had fewer starts than the previous year (2019/20). 
  • In 2020/21, the number of employers with an apprenticeship start increased by 2% (1,350) on 2019/20 levels, to reach 68,270. This is still 14% lower than pre-pandemic levels (79,500 in 2018/19).
  • In 2020/21, there were 28 enterprises with apprenticeship starts per 1,000 enterprises in England - down slightly from 34 per 1,000 enterprises in 2018/19.

Explore data and files

All data used in this release is available as open data for download


Open data

Browse and download individual open data files from this release in our data catalogue


Guidance

Learn more about the data files used in this release using our online guidance


Create your own tables

You can view featured tables that we have built for you, or create your own tables from the open data using our table tool


All supporting files

All supporting files from this release are listed for individual download below:

List of all supporting files

About these statistics

The Department for Education’s Individualised Learner Record (ILR), Apprenticeship Service and the Office for National Statistics Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR) have been matched together to allow information about apprentices to be linked to business information relating to the apprentice’s employer, covering: 

  • Learner characteristics: age, gender, ethnicity, learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and whether they live in a relatively deprived area (based on the Index of Multiple Deprivation)
  • Apprenticeship information: level, standard/framework, subject studied, whether they were supported by levy funds from an Apprenticeship Service Account (ASA) and geography of the workplace of the apprenticeship (region, local authority and parliamentary constituency),
  • Employer enterprise characteristics: industry sector (broad and 2 digit Standard Industrial Classification 2007), size band (number of employees) and legal status.

This edition contains new data linking apprenticeship starts and achievements in 2020/21 from the ILR to enterprises in the IDBR from December 2021. The resulting linked education and business (ILR-IDBR) dataset is used here to produce:

  1. Estimates for volumes of apprenticeship starts by employer enterprise characteristics between 2012/13 and 2020/21,
  2. Estimates of the volume of enterprises with apprenticeship starts, by enterprise characteristics between 2012/13 and 2020/21,
  3. For the first time, volumes of apprenticeship achievements by employer enterprise characteristics, between 2018/19 and 2020/21.

In 2020/21 there were 321,440 apprenticeship starts in England, of which 94% (303,740) were matched to an employer in the IDBR database. These matched apprenticeship starts took place within 68,270 unique enterprises in England. The match rate has steadily increased since the first match in 2012/13 (when it was 88%).

More information on the matching approach used can be found in the accompanying methodology note

Please note that in the next update to these statistics, the matching approach to link to the IDBR will be changing slightly. For more details, please see the methodology note.

The statistics presented here relate to matched apprenticeship starts only, and so will be slightly lower than the official figures published in the DfE Apprenticeships and Traineeships National Statistics.

Industry characteristics

The use of the term ‘enterprise’ in this publication refers to an enterprise as defined in the ONS IDBR as ‘a business under autonomous and single control, usually producing a single set of accounts’. The enterprise size, however, refers to either the number of employees in the enterprise, or in the enterprise group to which the enterprise belongs - where applicable (an enterprise group consists of several enterprises under common ownership). All other characteristics are those belonging to the enterprise wherever possible. The geographical information refers to the workplace of the apprenticeship except for Ministry of Defence apprenticeships, where the training provider’s location is used. 

Work will continue to improve the statistics as knowledge of the underlying data source develops. 

ONS have supplied the Inter-departmental Business Register data used in this publication, but they bear no responsibility for the further analysis or interpretation of that data contained here. 

Policy context

An apprenticeship is a job with training. Through their apprenticeship, apprentices will gain the technical knowledge, practical experience and wider skills and behaviours they need for their immediate job and future career. The apprentice gains this through formal off-the-job training and the opportunity to practise these new skills in a real work environment.

The UK-wide apprenticeship levy came into force on 6 April 2017 requiring all UK public and private sector employers with an annual pay bill of £3 million or more to invest in apprenticeship training. As of May 2017, reforms have been made to how apprenticeship funding works, including the introduction of the apprenticeship levy and apprenticeship service. The profile of apprenticeship starts changed significantly since the introduction of the levy which, along with the introduction of apprenticeship standards (that are replacing frameworks), has impacted on the number and nature of apprenticeship starts. 

Until July 2020, there were two types of apprenticeships: ‘frameworks’ and ‘standards’. New standards have been replacing the older apprenticeship frameworks in recent years. All new apprenticeship starts from the 2020/21 academic year onwards are on apprenticeship standards.

In addition, the 2019/20 and 2020/21 data covers a period affected by varying COVID-19 restrictions, which will have impacted on apprenticeship learning and also provider reporting behaviour via the Individualised Learner Record. Therefore, extra care should be taken in comparing and interpreting data presented in this release.

Apprenticeship starts by enterprise size

In 2020/21, the number of apprenticeship starts in small employers (those with fewer than 50 employees) increased by 12% (or 9,770 starts) compared to 2019/20, the first recorded increase since 2015/16. However, this remains 45% lower than in 2016/17 (pre levy introduction) and 9% lower than in 2018/19 (pre-pandemic).

Meanwhile, apprenticeship starts in medium sized employers (50-249 employees) fell slightly by 5% (or 1,700 starts) compared to 2019/20. This leaves them 21% down on 2018/19 (pre-pandemic) levels and 56% lower than in 2016/17 (pre levy introduction).

In 2020/21 starts in large employers (250+ employees) fell slightly by 3% (or 5,740 starts) compared to 2019/20. Apprenticeship starts in large employers reached their highest level in the series in 2018/19 (224,970), but have now fallen for two years in a row. As a result, starts in large employers in 2020/21 were 20% down on 2018/19 (pre-pandemic) levels and 14% lower than in 2016/17 (pre levy introduction).

The statistics presented here relate to matched apprenticeship starts only, and so are different from the official figures published in the DfE Apprenticeships and Traineeships National Statistics.

Apprenticeship starts are a count of apprenticeship programmes that begin in an academic year. For more detail on how we count starts and other definitions please see the methodology section.

After falling for the previous three years, in 2020/21 the proportion of apprenticeship starts amongst SMEs (small and medium sized employers with 0-249 employees) increased to 41%. This increase is driven by starts in small employers increasing slightly between 2019/20 and 2020/21, whilst starts amongst medium and large employers fell.

However, SMEs share of apprenticeship starts is still lower than it was when the apprenticeship levy was introduced (54% in 2016/17). 

Apprenticeship starts by enterprise sector

In 2020/21, most industry sectors still had fewer apprenticeship starts compared to 2018/19 (before the COVID-19 pandemic started to impact on starts), and fewer starts than the previous year 2019/20. 

The biggest industry sector in terms of apprenticeship starts was the ‘Health/social work’ sector, with 25% of starts in 2020/21. Together with the ‘Public administration’, ‘Education’ and ‘Wholesale/retail’ sectors, they accounted for more than half of all apprenticeship starts in 2020/21.

Change since 2018/19

The industry sectors with the largest falls in apprenticeship starts since before the pandemic are the ‘Arts/Entertainment’ sector (down by 48% since 2018/19), ‘Accommodation/catering’ sector (down by 39%) and ‘Manufacturing’ sector (down by 35%). 

Along with ‘Wholesale/retail’ (down by 32%) and ‘Other service activities’  (down by 31%) these industry sectors were all more likely to be ‘shut down’ during the pandemic, which is likely to have impacted on apprenticeship starts. 

In addition, these sectors have some of the highest proportions of starts by apprentices aged under 19. With under 19's being most likely to start in the August - October quarter of an academic year, this group will have been disproportionately impacted by the uncertainty and shutdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time when they were likely to be considering their transition between educational phases. In addition, research tells us that young apprentices are likely to be new employees, so starts amongst this group will also have been negatively impacted as employers were less likely to recruit over this period.

Change since 2019/20

The ‘Health/social work' industry sector accounts for a quarter of all apprenticeship starts (25%, or 76,460 in 2020/21), and was one of the few sectors with an increase in starts this year (up by 18% since 2019/20). The ‘Information/communication’ sector accounts for fewer starts (9,890 in 2020/21) but also saw an increase this year (up by 16% since 2019/20). 

Other sectors seeing small increases in 2020/21 were the ‘Education’, ‘Financial services’, ‘Public administration’ and ‘Transportation’ sectors.

Meanwhile, the ‘Manufacturing’ (down by 25% since 2019/20) and the ‘Arts/entertainment’ (down by 18%) sectors saw the biggest falls since 2019/20. Starts in the ‘Construction’ sector fell by 12%.

Generally, industry sectors with higher proportions of apprenticeship starts at Level 4+ seem to be more likely to have seen an increase since 2019/20, whilst those with more starts at lower levels saw falls.

Apprenticeship starts by enterprise size and sector

The proportion of starts by employer size varies considerably across industry sectors. For example, in 2020/21 92% of apprenticeship starts in the ‘Other service activities’ sector were with SMEs (with 0-249 employees), whereas 99% of starts in ‘Public administration’ were with large employers (with 250+ employees).

Most industry sectors have seen a fall in apprenticeship starts amongst both SMEs and large sized employers, since the year before the COVID-19 pandemic (2018/19).

Amongst large employers, the biggest falls in apprenticeship starts between 2018/19 and 2020/21 were in the ‘Arts/entertainment’ (down by 65%), ‘Accommodation/catering’ (down by 46%), ‘Other service activities’ (down by 43%) and ‘Construction’ and ‘Wholesale/retail’ (both down by 37%) sectors. 

Amongst SMEs, the biggest falls in apprenticeship starts between 2018/19 and 2020/21 were in the ‘Public administration’ (down by 44%, but based on a low volume), ‘Manufacturing’ (down by 38%) and ‘Other service activities’ (down by 30%).

The only size and sector subgroups to see an increase over this period were large ‘Public administration’ employers (up by 9%) and SME ‘Financial services’ employers (up by 1%).

Small employers saw an increase in apprenticeship starts between 2019/20 and 2020/21 of 12% (9,770 starts). This increase in starts in small employers was found in the ‘Accommodation/catering’ (up 42%),  ‘Information/communication’ (up 32%), ‘Administrative services’ (up 32%) and ‘Education’ (up 28%) sectors. Apprenticeship starts amongst small employers in the ‘Health/social work’ sector increased by 4,190, or 23% over the same period.

Rate of apprenticeship starts by enterprise sector

In 2020/21, there were 12 apprenticeship starts per 1,000 employees in England - down slightly from 14 per 1,000 employees the previous year.

The highest number of apprenticeship starts per 1,000 employees occurred in the ‘Public administration’ sector, with 28 starts per 1,000 employees in 2020/21. This sector was the only one to have a higher rate of apprenticeship starts in 2020/21 than before the pandemic (27 starts per 1,000 employees in 2018/19). 

The next highest rate was ‘Health/social work’ with 23 starts in 2020/21, down from 25 starts in 2018/19. The ‘Construction’ sector had the third highest rate of starts per 1,000 employees, despite experiencing a large fall from 23 starts in 2018/19 to 17 starts in 2020/21.

Despite having the fourth highest number of apprenticeship starts, the ‘Wholesale/retail trade’ sector had one of the lowest rates of apprenticeship starts with 7 per 1,000 employees. This is due to this sector having the most employees in 2020/21 (ONS Business Register and Employment Survey, 2020). 

The ‘Other service activities’ sector saw the greatest fall in rate of apprenticeship starts per 1,000 employees - from 17 in 2018/19 to 12 in 2020/21.

Please note that apprenticeship starts in the 'Public administration' sector will not match published statistics on Public Sector apprenticeship starts (available here ). Public sector starts will be spread across several industry sectors (such as ‘Health /social work’ as well as ‘Public administration’).

Apprenticeship starts by enterprise sector and learner demographics

Female apprenticeship starts were predominately in the ‘Health/social work’ sector in 2020/21,  with 63,290 starts, accounting for 40% of all female starts. Within this sector, 66% of starts were by over 25 year olds (second only to ‘Transportation’, with 67% of starts by over 25 year olds). In fact, the 50,490 apprenticeship starts by the over 25's in this sector accounted for 33% of all starts by this age group in 2020/21.

Male apprenticeship starts were most likely to occur in the ‘Public administration' sector (19,870 starts) or the ‘Construction’ sector (18,790 starts). Together, these sectors accounted for over a quarter (27%) of all male apprenticeship starts in 2020/21. 

Almost half (47%) of all starts in the ‘Construction’ sector were from the ‘Under 19’ age group and 88% were male apprentices. 

The ‘Other service activities’ sector had the highest proportion of under 19 year old starts in 2020/21 (under 19’s made up 57% of starts in this sector) and the second highest proportion of female starts (females accounted for 81% of starts in this sector), behind only the ‘Health/social work’ sector. 

Enterprises with apprenticeship starts by size

Since 2019/20, the number of unique enterprises with at least one matched apprenticeship start increased by 2% (or 1,350 starts) to 68,270 in 2020/21. The number of small enterprises increased by 5% (or 2,300 employers), whilst the number of medium sized enterprises fell by 6% and large enterprises fell by 3%.

However, the number of enterprises with apprenticeship starts in 2020/21 is 14% lower than 2018/19, before the pandemic.

The number of small enterprises with apprenticeship starts in 2020/21 (49,940) is still significantly lower than the peak of 83,180 in 2015/16, a fall of 40%.

Whilst the majority of apprenticeship starts occur in large employers, most employers with apprenticeship starts are small (reflecting the general business population). In 2020/21, 73% of employers with at least one apprenticeship start were small (0-49 employees). Although only 13% of employers were large (250+ employees), 59% of apprenticeship starts were with large employers

Enterprises with apprenticeship starts by size and sector

Both SME and large employers and most industry sectors saw a decrease in number of enterprises with at least one apprenticeship start, since the year before the COVID-19 pandemic (2018/19).

Amongst SMEs with apprenticeship starts, the largest falls in employers were found in the ‘Accommodation/catering’ (down 35%), ‘Manufacturing’ (down 29%) and ‘Other service activities’ (down 28%) sectors, between 2018/19 and 2020/21.  Meanwhile, large employers with apprenticeship starts fell by a third (33%) in both the ‘Accommodation/catering’ and ‘Arts/entertainment’ sectors. 

The only size and sector subgroups to have seen an increase between 2018/19 and 2020/21 were large employers in the ‘Education’ (up by 3%) and ‘Public administration’ (up by 2%) sectors.

Rate of enterprises with apprenticeship starts

In 2020/21, there were 28 enterprises with apprenticeship starts per 1,000 enterprises in England - down slightly from 34 per 1,000 enterprises in 2018/19.

As well as having the second largest number of enterprises with apprenticeship starts (11,090 in 2020/21), the ‘Health/social work’ sector had the highest rate of enterprises with apprenticeship starts in 2020/21, with 138 enterprises per 1,000 in the sector having an apprenticeship start (down from 147 in 2018/19).

The rate of enterprises with apprenticeship starts per 1,000 enterprises has fallen in every industry sector. The largest absolute falls in rates were found in the ‘Production’ sector (down from 57 enterprises with apprenticeship starts per 1,000 enterprises, to 41 in 2020/21) and ‘Other service activities’ sector (down from 56 to 40).

Apprenticeship achievements by size and sector

For the first time, data has been produced looking at apprenticeship achievements by industry characteristics, between 2018/19 and 2020/21.

Explore data on apprenticeship achievements by industry characteristics

You can create your own tables looking at achievements by using the table builder tool to explore the underlying data files titled ‘Apprenticeship achievements by….’

The following tables also offer a range of useful breakdowns:

File subject What is available in the file
Apprenticeship achievements by industry sector and size, 2018/19 - 2020/21

Academic year: 2018/19 to 2020/21

Indicators:  Number of achievements

Filters: Size, Sector

Apprenticeship achievements by detailed industry sector (2 digit SIC) and size, 2018/19 - 2020/21

Academic year: 2018/19 to 2020/21

Indicators:  Number of achievements

Filters: Size, Sector, 2 digit sector code of enterprise 

Apprenticeship achievements by industry sector, size and apprenticeship type, 2018/19 - 2020/21

Academic year: 2018/19 to 2020/21

Indicators:  Number of achievements

Filters: Size, Sector, 2 digit sector code of enterprise 

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Methodology

Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics

Experimental statistics

These statistics are experimental statistics undergoing evaluation. They have been developed under the guidance of the Head of Profession for Statistics and published to involve users and stakeholders at an early stage in assessing their suitability and quality.

Experimental official statistics have been produced as far as possible in line with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

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If you have a specific enquiry about Apprenticeships in England by industry characteristics statistics and data:

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