The number of people signing up for apprenticeships has fallen substantially since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in 2017, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
Analysis by the office saw a spike in new starts in April 2017, before the reforms were introduced, followed by a fall that has yet to recover to previous levels.
The number of people enrolling in apprenticeships in 2017/18 was 375,800, a 26% decline on 2015/16.
Reforms introduced by the Department of Education in 2017 saw a shift in programmes to be employer-funded and focused to meet employer needs. This included a levy that sees larger employers pay in 0.5% of their annual wage bill, which can be reclaimed against apprenticeship costs along with a 10% top-up.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “Despite making changes to the apprenticeships programme, the department has not enticed employers to use available funds or encouraged enough potential recruits to start an apprenticeship. It has much more to do to meet its ambitions. If the department is serious about boosting the country’s productivity, it needs to set out clearly whether its efforts are on track to meet that aim.”