Construction and trade apprenticeships falling out of favour?

Skills gap tracker: Construction and trade apprenticeships falling out of favour?

New research shows decline in number of number of construction and trade apprenticeships, despite an overall increase in the number of positions available to apprentices.

  • Construction and trade positions make up just seven per cent of all apprenticeships, down from a high of 12 per cent in 2006
  • Volume of construction skills apprenticeships falls from 1st to 9th place since 2006
  • Vocational qualifications fall by 14 per cent in one year

New analysis1 from small business insurer Direct Line for Business reveals that construction and trade apprenticeships made up just seven per cent of all apprenticeships last year, down from a high of 12 per cent in 2006.

While the number of total apprenticeships has increased by 57 per cent in the last five years to 434,630 during 2013/14, only two construction and trade focused apprenticeships rank in the top ten (construction skills at 9th and industrial applications at 10th). This is vastly different to 2006/07 when construction skills apprenticeships topped the table, with more than 20,000 apprenticeships undertaken in this field.

Top 10 Apprenticeships by volume of available places, 2013/14

Type of apprenticeship Number of apprenticeships Share of apprenticeships
1 Health and Social Care 70,080 15.9%
2 Business Administration 44,190 10.0%
3 Management 33,140 7.5%
4 Hospitality and Catering 32,010 7.3%
5 Customer Service 31,320 7.1%
6 Children's Care Learning and Development 24,320 5.5%
7 Retail 16,560 3.8%
8 Engineering 15,550 3.5%
9 Construction Skills 15,510 3.5%
10 Industrial Applications 14,860 3.4%
Total 440,400

Additional analysis suggests that the number of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs), Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs), Vocationally Related Qualifications (VRQs) and Qualification and Credit Framework Qualifications (QCFs) awarded between 2013 and 2014 fell by 14 per cent from 5,443,000 to 4,684,000.

The number of NVQs/SVQs achieved in the UK has decreased sharply over the last four years from 1.0 million in 2009/10 to 44,000 in 2013/14. In line with NVQs/SVQs, the number of VRQs achieved in the UK also decreased from 2.1 million in 2009/10 to 190,000 in 2013/14. Additionally, Qualifications in Construction, Planning and the Built Environment made up only 5% of all qualifications in 2013/14 (232,200 out of 4,684,000).

Nick Breton, Head of Direct Line for Business said: “Construction and trade based skills are vital to the UK economy. It’s tradespeople who come to the rescue when our boiler fails, and are the ones who are working every day to build homes, offices and help improve our roads.

“Apprenticeships are important for budding builders, plumbers and electricians to get into the workplace. With fewer people in apprenticeships there is a risk of creating a skills gap that will affect businesses and consumers alike. The introduction of the new £3 billion apprenticeship levy in the Government’s Autumn Statement and the promise of three million new apprenticeships across the UK is a positive move, which we hope will make it easier for SMEs to ensure that they have access to skilled young workers.”

Last year a poll2 from suggested that young people are failing to apply for apprenticeships because they feel there is more focus in the UK on securing an academic qualification. Over half (53%) admitted to dismissing the trade industry in pursuit of a more academic career path. Other reasons listed included a reluctance to work evenings and weekends (16%) and the belief that the starting salary of a tradesman is too low.

Benefits and training opportunities for trade apprenticeships:

  • You get to work alongside experienced staff and can learn on the job
  • You get a chance to develop your skills and confidence
  • You will earn a wage and get holiday pay
  • You can choose different levels of apprenticeships depending on how far you want to go.

For more information on how to become an apprentice visit

Want to find out more about being a tradesperson? Visit our Tradespeople Knowledge Centre:

Notes to editors:

1 Direct Line for Business analysis of ONS data focusing on apprenticeships and vocational qualifications, 2005-2014

2 OnePoll or’s own database of tradesmen. Total sample size of young people aged between 16 – 24 was 1,000. Fieldwork was undertaken in February 2014. The survey was carried out online.

For further information please contact:

Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Antonia Green
Tel: 020 7282 2967

Direct Line for Business
Jade Trimbee
PR Manager
Tel: 01372 839 452
Mobile: 07825 315 931

Direct Line for Business

Launched in 2007 Direct Line for Business provides a range of insurance products for the small business sector direct by phone or on-line.

Direct Line for Business insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line for Business and U K Insurance Limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line for Business products or get a quote by calling 0345 301 4827 or visiting

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Added: 30 December 2015