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The Guardian view on apprenticeships: time to learn from past mistakes | Editorial

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A damning study highlights a flawed and underregulated system in dire need of reform

That the economy has a skills and productivity problem has been one of the recurring themes of 2022. Rishi Sunak has in the past noted that employers spend only half the European average on training their workers. Since 2005, according to the Learning and Work Institute, business investment in skills has fallen by 28%. Such lamentable statistics, it is widely accepted, have contributed to Britain’s historically anaemic growth figures. They also represent a grievous waste of potential in relation to millions of young people entering the workforce. Yet, despite years of government rhetoric regarding apprenticeships in particular, and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy on bigger businesses in 2017, nothing seems to change.

Amid multiple recent reports delivering grim news about the economy, one study published this month stands out. Entitled “No Train, No Gain”, and produced by EDSK – an education thinktank – it finds that almost half of young people signed up for apprenticeships subsequently abandon them. Many of those who drop out, the study’s authors report, become terminally disillusioned with what they are being offered.

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