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10 February 2021updated 06 Sep 2021 1:05pm

Which councils are hitting their apprenticeship targets?

Our analysis shows some local authorities are better than others.

By Nicu Calcea and Samir Jeraj

L ocal government provides everything from housing to refuse collection. It is also a significant supporter of apprenticeships, hosting thousands each year. Apprentices learn part-time and work part-time as part of a path into a specific job, such as administrator or social worker. Spotlight crunched the data to get a picture of apprenticeships in local authorities.

Like most of the public sector, local government is behind on its target. The government’s aim is for apprentices to make up at least 2.3 per cent of the public sector’s overall workforce by 2021. The armed forces and fire authorities were the only ones to hit that goal in 2019-20.


Of the apprenticeships offered, business and admin, finance, and law were the most popular. This was followed by health and social care, education and training, and retail and commercial enterprises.


Based on a sample of one-third of councils, 91.6 per cent of people who completed an apprenticeship had a “sustained positive destination”, going into employment or further education or training. Some apprentices, for example, will complete a lower-level apprenticeship, progressing to a higher level (potentially up to degree level).

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Some councils are more enthusiastic supporters of apprenticeships than others. While larger councils in London have greater numbers of apprentices, they are behind some parts of England when it comes to the share among the councils’ total headcount. For example, in Basildon, Essex, 4.7 per cent of the headcount was made up of apprenticeship starts, more than twice the government target, whereas Broadland in Norfolk is only a sixth of the way there at 0.4 per cent. Among the bottom are Redditch Borough and Bromsgrove District Councils, where only one in 1,000 employees (0.11 per cent) were apprentices. Greater Manchester, at double its target (4.6 per cent), is one of the leading councils.

Only a minority of councils are meeting government target
Share of employees starting apprenticeships between 2017-18 to 2019-20

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Since 2017, all employers with a wage bill of £3m or more are subject to a levy that they can draw on to provide apprenticeships. Local government schemes existed from the mid-1990s until the new system was introduced, but the levy and 2.3 per cent target have driven an increase in the past four years.

Apprenticeships in local government clearly have a positive impact. Local authorities now have an opportunity to demonstrate a model of best practice for the rest of the public sector.