The Department for Education is facing questions over the merits of a drive to establish apprenticeship standards

Mark Sands
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The NAO said just 2,600 people had been recruited to apprenticeships under the new standards (Source: Getty)

The government is facing doubts over its plans for apprenticeships, after the National Audit Office (NAO) raised questions on how the economy will gain from boosted numbers.

In a report issued today, the NAO said the Department for Education has yet to reveal how it expects increased numbers of apprenticeships to boost productivity, or how it will seek to maximise gains.

Since 2013, there has been a drive to develop employer-led apprenticeship standards for such schemes, but the NAO said more work is still necessary to raise awareness of the programme. It is distinct to plans for an apprenticeship levy, which will be finalised in October.

As of April this year, only 2,600 people had started apprenticeships under the new standards.

NAO head Amyas Morse said: “The Department for Education needs to chart and follow a course from having a lot of apprenticeships to having the right apprenticeships in order to help improve the UK’s productivity, and achieve value for money, in return for the costs of the programme.”

The watchdog also found that while employers report high levels of satisfaction with training, Ofsted reports suggest one in five providers need to improve services and results.

Apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon said: “Our apprenticeship reforms give young people a ladder of opportunity, provide employers with high quality apprentices and deliver real benefits to the economy.

“We are giving employers more power than ever before to design apprenticeships that are rigorous, robust and world class. The new Institute for Apprenticeships will ensure that apprenticeships are even more closely tailored to the needs of employers.”