Chuka Umunna, the Labour shadow business secretary, says it is considerably more difficult to get an apprenticeship at BAE or Rolls-Royce than it is to get a place at Oxford or Cambridge. Is this true?
The Conservatives and Labour have been talking about apprenticeships today. The Tories say they have created 2.2 million apprenticeships since 2010 and they are aiming for another three million “high-quality” apprenticeships. It is certainly true that the number of people starting apprenticeships has risen dramatically since 2002, but in the past couple of years it has been falling. In 2013-14, 440,000 apprenticeships started – 70,000 fewer than the previous year.
The vast majority of those apprenticeships were in the service sector. In 2013-14 there were 126,000 in business, law and administration; 109,000 in health, public service and care; 87,000 in retail and commercial; and 65,000 in engineering and manufacturing – this at a time when Britain’s manufacturers say they face a serious skills shortage.
There is wide agreement that apprenticeships are a good thing, because they help people into work and increase productivity. According to the Centre for Economic and Business Research, on average an apprenticeship raises the productivity of a worker by £214 per week, and British workers’ productivity lags behind that of their German, French and US counterparts. But Britain has fewer apprenticeships than comparable countries. There are only 11 per 1,000 employees in England, according to a study by the London School of Economics, compared with 39 per 1,000 in Australia, and 40 per 1,000 in Germany.
So it is certainly true that there are fewer apprenticeships around. As for Mr Umunna’s claim that it is harder to get an apprenticeship at BAE or Rolls-Royce than it is to get places at Oxford or Cambridge, when we asked Labour where it got its figures from, it replied it was “anecdotal” evidence from companies. That particular assertion does not pass the Reality Check