THE number of people starting apprenticeships in the Bradford district has decreased since 2011, according to figures.

There was a -26 per cent drop in apprenticeship starts in Bradford East between 2011/12 and 2018/19.

For Bradford South apprentices were down by -23 per cent over the same period. For Bradford West and Shipley areas there was -11 per cent and Keighley reported a -16 per cent drop over the same period.

The figures have been released as a report claims a shortage of apprenticeships for young people is hindering the levelling up agenda.

This is according to new Onward research warning that access to vocational alternatives to university has plummeted since the Government reformed the system.

A sharp drop off in small firms offering apprenticeships and a shift away from entry-level to higher apprenticeships has meant fewer school leavers becoming apprentices, and more established professionals in big firms taking them to top-up their existing skills.

This means as large businesses have increased the number of apprentices they are hiring, fewer and fewer of these are from deprived backgrounds.

Nationally, the number of entry-level apprenticeships (Level 2) has fallen by more than half (56 per cent) since 2011.

This is double the overall fall in apprenticeships available (25 per cent). And the result is clear: There are now nearly twice as many over-25 year olds doing apprenticeships than 19-year olds. In 2008 the opposite was true.

Onward’s report, Course Correction, sets out four ways to change the apprenticeship system including fund apprenticeships for 16 to 18 year olds. The Government currently funds A-levels but not entry-level apprenticeships. This needs to change.

Give regional mayors more responsibility for brokering apprenticeships. Mayors have shown that they can successfully deliver apprenticeships and should get more powers in this area, particularly on working with local SMEs.

Other proposals include actively encourage big businesses to recruit more school leavers via apprenticeships and end the subsidy for big businesses that support apprenticeships beyond their apprenticeship levy fund. Publish data on apprenticeship outcomes.

Martin McTague, National Chair of the Federation of Small Business, said: “Apprenticeships are a great way to bring fresh perspectives into a business and upskill the next generation, so it’s been really disheartening to see such a drop off in starts, especially within young people, in recent years.

“This report marks an important intervention and contains a lot of ideas that should be given careful consideration.

“It is right to focus on how the system can help create new jobs for young people.”