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Inquiry into ‘worrying’ fall in engineering apprenticeships launched

11 January 2023

Civil engineering apprenticeships, however, are bucking the trend.

Inquiry into ‘worrying’ fall in engineering apprenticeships launched
The number of people doing engineering apprenticeships has fallen in the UK - with the exception of those in the build environment.

An inquiry into a decline in engineering, manufacturing and technology apprenticeships has been launched, with support from EngineeringUK.

It aims to find out why there's been a fall in the number of people taking this route into the sector over recent years in the UK.

Civil engineering bucks the trend

Fortunately, civil engineering bucks this trend.

According to an EngineeringUK report, apprenticeship starts in 'construction, planning and the built environment' have increased by 42% since 2014/15. 

As part of the inquiry, employers, training providers, young people and those who work with them, are all being urged to submit their views, evidence or ideas to improve the apprenticeship pathway into engineering.

Those involved with civil engineering apprenticeships may have valuable insight to share to help encourage apprenticeships in the declining areas. 

"Given the pressing need for more engineers and technicians in the UK, now and into the future, we urgently need more young people to start and complete apprenticeships in the sector,” said Hilary Leevers, CEO of EngineeringUK.

"We therefore urge the sector, as well youth training providers and organisations, to show their support for this important inquiry by sharing their experiences and suggestions for how to make engineering-related apprenticeships more available and accessible to young people."

Fall in engineering apprentices

Although there was a small increase in numbers last year, the number of engineering-related apprenticeship starts in England are 9% lower than in 2014/15, according to EngineeringUK.

In engineering and manufacturing technologies, the decline is even greater, at 34%.

An urgent problem

The inquiry is being led by former Labour and Conservative ministers Lord Jim Knight and Lord David Willetts.

Lord Knight, inquiry co-chair and former Labour education and employment minister, said: "The fall in young people taking up engineering and technology apprenticeships is an urgent problem," said Lord Knight, inquiry co-chair and former Labour education and employment minister.

"I am delighted to be working with David Willetts and EngineeringUK to fully investigate where the problems lie and what can be done to fix them."

Lord Willetts is a former Conservative minister for universities and science.

He said he was especially interested in the inquiry as his father used to run an apprenticeship programme for a Midlands engineering firm.

Call for evidence

The consultation is open until 27 February 2023. It seeks views from the infrastructure sector on four areas:

1. Opportunities

What part do apprenticeships play in helping to meet the UK’s skills needs in engineering and technology?

2. State of play

What are the reasons behind the overall decline in engineering apprenticeship starts in recent years? We are particularly interested in understanding more about supply and demand.

3. Barriers

What are the barriers for businesses taking on young people as apprentices and what are the barriers for young people in accessing them?

4. Solutions

What do you think needs to change to help increase the number and diversity of young people taking up and completing engineering and technology apprenticeships?

Responses to the inquiry, Fit for the future: growing and sustaining engineering and technology apprenticeships for young people’, can be submitted at

  • Anh Nguyen, content strategy manager at ICE