Academic Year 2019/20

Apprenticeships in England by industry characteristics

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  1. Updated next release date to April 2022

  2. This update reallocates a small number of starts to their correct region, where previously their region was recorded as 'Not available'.

This release presents statistics on apprenticeship starts by their employer enterprise characteristics.

Data from the Individualised Learner Record (ILR), Apprenticeship Service and Office for National Statistics Inter-departmental Business Register (IDBR) have been matched.

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

  • learner characteristics - age and gender,
  • 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.

Headline facts and figures - 2019/20

  • In 2019/20, the number of matched apprenticeship starts fell in every enterprise size band compared to 2018/19. Small enterprises (those with fewer than 50 employees) saw the largest decrease in matched starts of 19%, around 18,600.
  • Since the introduction of the levy in 2016/17, small and medium sized enterprises have seen falls in the number of apprenticeship starts (down by 51% and 54% respectively), whilst large enterprises saw a smaller decrease of 11%.
  • Apprenticeship starts in sectors identified as ‘shutdown’ during the COVID-19 lockdown fell by 70% between 23 March – 31 July 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. Meanwhile, starts in other sectors fell by 40%.
  • Since 2018/19, the number of unique enterprises with at least one matched apprenticeship start fell by 16% (about 12,600) to 66,900 in 2019/20. The number of small enterprises with apprenticeship starts has fallen significantly from a peak of around 83,000 in 2015/16, down to 47,600 (a fall of 43%) by 2019/20.
  • Large enterprises with apprenticeship starts are more likely to continue to have starts the following year (74%), than medium (55%) or small enterprises (33%). Industry sectors characterised by large public sector enterprises (such as ‘Public Administration’, ‘Education’ and ‘Human health and social work’) have the highest retention rates.

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Introduction and context

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, 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 in 2019/20 from the ILR to enterprises in the IDBR from December 2020. The resulting linked education and business (ILR-IDBR) dataset covers eight academic years between 2012/13 and 2019/20 and is used here to produce:

  1. Estimates for volumes of apprenticeship starts by employer enterprise characteristics,
  2. An analysis of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on apprenticeship starts in 2019/20, by industry sector,
  3. Estimates of the volume of enterprises with apprenticeship starts, by enterprise characteristics,
  4. For the first time, an analysis of retention and frequency of engagement of enterprises with apprenticeship starts, between 2012/13 and 2019/20.

In 2019/20 there were 322,500 apprenticeship starts in England, of which 93% (301,410) were matched to an employer in the IDBR database. These matched apprenticeship starts took place within 66,900 unique enterprises in England. The match rate has steadily increased since the first match in 2012/13 (when it was 88%).

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.

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

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. 

In addition, the 2019/20 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 industry characteristics

In 2019/20,  the number of matched apprenticeship starts fell in every size of enterprise compared to 2018/19. Small enterprises (those with fewer than 50 employees) saw the largest decrease in matched starts of 19%, around 18,600. 

Apprenticeship starts in large enterprises fell from the highest point in the series in 2018/19 (225,000) by 17% to reach 185,600 in 2019/20. Starts in medium sized enterprises also fell by 17% (7,000) since 2018/19.

Similarly, there has been a decrease in the number of starts across all enterprise sizes since the introduction of the levy in 2016/17, with small enterprises seeing a 51% decrease and medium enterprises a 54% decrease. Large enterprises saw a smaller decrease of 11%.

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.

In 2019/20, 62% of apprenticeship starts were in large enterprises, 11% in medium sized and 27% in small enterprises. This is almost unchanged since last year. 

Since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in 2016/17, large enterprises have increased their share of apprenticeship starts from 46% to 62% in 2019/20, whereas small and medium sized enterprises share have both fallen slightly.

In 2019/20, most sectors still have fewer apprenticeship starts compared to 2016/17, before the levy was introduced, and fewer starts than 2018/19. The ‘Arts/Entertainment’ sector saw the biggest fall since 2016/17 (down by 58%), and a 37% decrease since 2018/19. 

The ‘Public Administration’ sector was the only sector to see an increase since 2016/17, with 29% more apprenticeship starts, and a small increase of 6% in apprenticeship starts since 2018/19. The ‘Professional/Scientific’ sector also saw a small increase of 4% in apprenticeship starts since 2016/17. 

The highest number of apprenticeship starts per 1,000 people in employment occurred in the ‘Public Administration’ sector, with 28 per 1,000 people in employment starting an apprenticeship in 2019/20. The next highest was ‘Human Health and Social Work’ with 19 starts, and ‘Construction’ with 18 apprenticeship starts per 1,000 people in employment.

Despite having the third highest number of apprenticeship starts, the sector ‘Wholesale and Retail Trade’ had one of the lowest rates of apprenticeship starts with 7 per 1,000 people in employment. This is due to this sector having the most people in employment in 2019 (ONS Business Register and Employment Survey, 2019). 

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’).

The proportion of starts by enterprise size varies considerably across industry sectors. For example, in 2019/20 85% of apprenticeship starts in the ‘Other Service Activities’ sector were with small enterprises, whereas 98% of starts in ‘Public Administration and Defence’ were with large enterprises.

Since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in 2016/17, most sectors saw a decrease in apprenticeship starts in all enterprise sizes.

However, some sectors saw an increase in starts in large enterprises by 2019/20: ‘Professional/Scientific’ (81% increase), ‘Information/communication’ (46% increase) and ‘Public Administration’ (30% increase).

As expected given the criteria for the apprenticeship levy, starts supported by ASA levy funds continued to be concentrated amongst large enterprises in 2019/20. Therefore, when examining the data by enterprise size and sector, sectors dominated by large enterprises also had most starts supported by ASA levy funds. 

For instance, apprenticeship starts amongst large enterprises in the 'Human Health and Social Work' sector were most likely to be supported by ASA levy funds (18% of starts in that sector), followed by 'Public Administration' (15% of starts in that sector).

Female apprenticeship starts were predominately in the ‘Human Health and Social Work’  sector in 2019/20,  with 53,100 starts, accounting for 37% of all female starts. Within this sector, 64% of these starts were within the ‘25+’ age group. 

Male apprenticeship starts were most likely to occur in the ‘Construction’ sector (21,800 starts) or the ‘Public Administration' sector (21,200 starts), with starts in both these sectors making up 28% of all male apprenticeship starts. In the ‘Construction’ sector, 50% of these starts were amongst the ‘Under 19’ age group. 

The ‘Other Service Activities’ sector was the sector with the highest proportion of under 19 year olds in 2019/20 (under 19’s made up 62% of starts in this sector). 

 

In 2019/20, medium sized enterprises had the highest proportion of their apprenticeship starts of learners living in the 20 per cent most deprived areas (24%).

The proportion of apprenticeship starts from learners living in the 20 per cent most deprived areas has generally been decreasing since 2016/17 across all enterprise sizes and for small and large enterprises the rate is now the lowest since the series began in 2012/13.

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on apprenticeship starts by industry characteristics

In 2019/20 during the period prior to the COVID-19 lockdown (1st August 2019 to 22 March 2020), there were 6% fewer apprenticeship starts than the same period in 2018/19. Sectors that would then become shutdown, were already seeing above average declines, with a 10% fall compared to 2018/19. 

This section uses a definition of ‘shutdown sectors’ taken from a paper by the Institute for Fiscal Studies [available here], which uses a group of 4 digit Standard Industrial Classification codes to identify sectors thought to be most impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown.

During the period after the COVID-19 lockdown began (23 March 2020 to 31 July 2020), there was a decrease of 47% in the overall number of apprenticeship starts compared to the same period in 2018/19.  Those sectors identified as shutdown sectors saw a large fall of 70% (around 15,200), whilst the other sectors saw a fall of 40% (around 33,000). 

Whilst overall the shutdown sectors fell by 70% in the period impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown compared with the same period in 2018/19, some sub-sectors were affected more than others. 

The ‘Air transport’ sector saw an almost complete reduction in their starts, although this is only a very small apprenticeship sector. ‘Food and beverage service activities’ and ‘Social work activities’ were two of the largest sectors impacted with starts down by 73% and 65% respectively during the lockdown period.

 

The fall in apprenticeship starts amongst the shutdown sectors between the period affected by the COVID-19 lockdown and the same period in 2018/19, disproportionately impacted female starts (66% of the total fall in shutdown sectors, compared with 54% for other sectors) and specifically younger female starts (19% of the total fall in shutdown sectors was found in starts by females aged under 19, compared with 9% in other sectors).

 

Despite a 6% overall fall in all apprenticeship starts during the period before the COVID-19 lockdown in 2019/20 (1 August 2019 - 22 March 2020), ‘Public Administration’ recorded an increase of 18% in starts, compared to the same period in 2018/19. However most sectors, like ‘Wholesale and retail trade’ (down by 19%), were continuing to record falls in starts - and went into the lockdown with fewer starts than in 2018/19.

During the period impacted by the pandemic (23 March - 31 July 2020), overall apprenticeship starts fell by 47%, compared with the same period in 2018/19. Those sectors that had already reported falls in apprenticeship starts during the earlier part of 2019/20, recorded even larger losses. Meanwhile the ‘Public Administration’ sector recorded much smaller losses than average (a decrease of 18%, compared with 61% in the ‘Wholesale and Retail Trade’ sector).
 

Profile of enterprises with apprenticeship starts

Since 2018/19, the number of unique enterprises with at least one matched apprenticeship start fell by 16% (about 12,600) to 66,900 in 2019/20. The largest fall was found in the number of small enterprises (down by 17%), whilst medium sized enterprises fell by 14% and large enterprises by 10%.

The number of small enterprises with apprenticeship starts has fallen significantly from a peak of around 83,000 in 2015/16, down to 47,600 (a fall of 43%) by 2019/20.

Whilst the majority of apprenticeship starts occur in large enterprises, most enterprises with apprenticeship starts are small (reflecting the general business population). In 2019/20, 71% of employers with at least one apprenticeship start were small (0-49 employees). Although only 13% of employers were large (250+ employees), 62% of apprenticeship starts were with large employers.

In 2019/20, the ‘Human Health and Social Work’ sector had the highest rate of enterprises with apprenticeship starts, with 124 enterprises per 1,000 in the sector having an apprenticeship start. The next highest was ‘Education’ with 106 enterprises with at least one apprenticeship start per 1,000 in the sector.

Since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in 2016/17, most sectors saw a decrease in number of enterprises with at least one apprenticeship start across all enterprise sizes.

However some sectors saw an increase in the number of large enterprises with starts such as ‘Public Administration’, which saw a 9% increase, with enterprises in this sector more likely to be large enterprises. Other sectors also saw an increase in the number of large enterprises with at least one apprenticeship start, including ‘Professional/Scientific’ (23%), ‘Information and Communication’ (16%) and Financial Services (8%), however large enterprises were a third or less of total enterprises in each of these sectors. 

Retention of enterprises with apprenticeship starts

Large enterprises with apprenticeship starts are more likely to continue to have starts the following year, than medium or small enterprises.

Just under three quarters (74%) of large enterprises with apprenticeship starts in 2018/19 also had apprenticeship starts the next academic year, compared with just over half (55%) of medium enterprises and a third (33%) of small enterprises. 

The retention rate has fallen slightly in the most recent year in each of the enterprise size bands.

The impact of the introduction of the levy can be observed in 2016/17 when the retention rate dropped amongst enterprises of all sizes. However, whilst the retention rate for large enterprises seems to recover the following year and is still above 2016/17 levels, the rate for small and medium sized enterprises has fallen back to the level found in 2016/17.
 

Industry sectors characterised by large public sector enterprises (such as ‘Public administration’, ‘Education’ and ‘Human health and social work’) have the highest retention rates.

In contrast the lowest retention rates are found amongst those industry sectors characterised by smaller, private sector enterprises (such as ‘Agriculture’, ‘Accommodation and catering’ and ‘Construction’).

Retention rates vary by industry sector and enterprise size. The ‘Human health and social work’ and ‘Education’ sectors have amongst the highest retention rates across all enterprise size bands. Whereas the ‘Administrative services’ sector has one of the lowest retention rates across all size bands.

Almost half (48%) of all enterprises with apprenticeship starts between 2012/13 and 2019/20 had just one year with at least one apprenticeship start. Just two per cent of enterprises had taken on apprenticeships in every year. 

Of those enterprises with apprenticeship starts who engaged just once between 2012/13 and 2019/20, 92% were small.

In contrast, 44% of those enterprises which had taken on apprenticeships in each of the eight years in this series, were large.

Enterprises with apprenticeship starts in just one year were most likely to be in the ‘Construction’ and ‘Wholesale/retail trade’ sectors, whereas those with apprenticeship starts in every year were most likely to be in the 'Human health and social work' sector (representing a third of all enterprises with apprenticeship starts in every year in the series).

Almost a quarter (24%) of enterprises with apprenticeship starts in 2019/20 were taking on apprenticeships for the first time (within the period 2012/13 - 2019/20).

And these enterprises taking on apprenticeships for the first time accounted for just 8% of apprenticeship starts in 2019/20 – whilst those which had taken on apprenticeships in every year accounted for 52% of starts.

Figure 27 shows the apprenticeship engagement status of the 93,320 enterprises with apprenticeship starts in 2012/13 in each of the subsequent years - that is, whether they continued to have further apprenticeship starts ('Continuing'), had apprenticeship starts after a year (or more) of having none ('Gap'), had no apprenticeship starts in the year ('None') or had gone out of business ('Dead'). 

Of those enterprises with apprenticeship starts in 2012/13, approximately half in each subsequent year had no apprenticeship starts in that year.

By 2019/20, 21% of these enterprises with apprenticeship starts in 2012/13 had ceased trading.

Further detailed information available

Within the supporting data provided in the table tool you can access more detailed information on apprenticeship starts and enterprises with apprenticeship starts, by their specific characteristics. These breakdowns include:

o  Age group

o  Gender

o Level of apprenticeship

o Subject studied

o Standard or framework

o Supported by funds from an Apprenticeship Service Account (ASA)

o Region of apprenticeship workplace

o  Local authority of apprenticeship workplace

o  Parliamentary constituency of apprenticeship workplace

o  Index of Multiple Deprivation (whether learner postcode is within top 20 per cent most deprived areas)

o Legal status

o  Industry sector (broad industry sector and 2 digit sector, Standard Industrial Classification)

o  Employee size band

These data are available for the academic years 2012/13 to 2019/20.

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Methodology

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Official statistics

These are Official Statistics and have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official 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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