The number of new people starting apprenticeships plummeted this year, following the introduction of an apprenticeship levy.
New enrolments dropped 59 per cent in the last three months of the 2017 academic year to 48,000, according to the Department for Education. This compared with 117,000 in the same period last year.
Verity Davidge, head of education and skills policy at manufacturing organisation EEF said the fall was "unsurprising".
“Accessing the funding has proven complex and difficult to unlock in time and employers have struggled to get their heads around the complex rules and restrictions in accessing funds," she said. "As a result some apprentices have been told that their apprenticeship has been put on hold for now which is clearly a huge disappointment for young people who had effectively been offered a job – only to have their hopes dashed."
Mike Cherry, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), agreed that the system was overly complicated and was hitting small businesses.
"While many small firms are committed to apprenticeships, many are still overwhelmed by the complexities in the system," he said. "The Government should make sure that when levy payers are able to share their digital vouchers they do so with small firms in their supply chain. Small firms should also be involved in the design of the new apprenticeship standards”.