6th March 2019

EPI response to NAO report on the apprenticeships programme

Today the National Audit Office (NAO) has published a new report assessing whether the government’s apprenticeships programme is providing value for money.

The report finds that despite some positive reforms to apprenticeships, the Department for Education’s programme faces a number of challenges – most notably in ensuring that employers access funds to support training, and that enough recruits are taking up an apprenticeship. The number of young people who have started an apprenticeship has fallen significantly since major changes to the programme were introduced in 2017. 

The NAO set out a series of recommendations for government, to ensure the long-term sustainability of the programme.

The full report can be read here.

Responding to the NAO report, Gerard Dominguez-Reig, Senior Researcher for Post-16 and Skills at the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:

“The NAO’s assessment of the 2017 apprenticeship reform shows that the level of employer buy-in is lower than the government expected, and that the potential rebranding of existing training might be compromising the programme’s contribution to productivity growth.

“Previous EPI research has called for robust progression pathways to higher levels of apprenticeships to entice learners, and has suggested that both employers and learners would benefit from younger-age and longer apprenticeships to smooth school-to-work transition. Our research has also suggested that for the policy to succeed SMEs need additional support, as they are more likely to face barriers to hiring apprentices.

“If the government’s ultimate objective is to fix skills gaps in England, it should give more consideration to these recommendations, and focus less on an arbitrary target of 3 million apprenticeship starts”.



1. The Education Policy Institute (EPI) is an independent, impartial, and evidence-based research institute that promotes high quality education outcomes, regardless of social background. We achieve this through data-led analysis, innovative research and high-profile events. Find out more about our work here: https://epi.org.uk/

2. The NAO’s report, ‘The apprenticeships programme’, was on Wednesday 6th March 2019.

3. EPI research on apprenticeships and skills includes: