Is poor mentor training to blame for almost a third of apprentices dropping out?

Richard Daniel Curtis, CEO of The Mentoring School, shares how colleagues feel about supporting apprentices – and asks whether inadequate support and training for mentors is leading to nearly a third of them dropping out.

The government has set a target of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 and introduced an apprenticeship levy for employers with an annual wages bill of over £3million. Government guidance for pay and conditions references the support apprentices should receive in the workplace.  However, results show almost a third of apprentices fail to complete their apprenticeships – and worryingly, the results of our research find that those responsible for looking after them don’t feel adequately skilled to do so.


30% of apprentices ‘dropping out’

The House of Commons Library (November 2016), identify that in 2015/16 there were 509,400 apprenticeships started, 56% of them being for people under the age of 25. 58% of the apprenticeships were at an Intermediate level 2, the type commonly used for new-entrant apprentices. The report identifies that 9.9% of those apprentices have some kind of learning difficulty or disability.

The Skills Funding Agency in May 2016 released the latest completion rates (known as achievement rates) for apprenticeships. In 2012/13 only 72.3% of apprentices completed their apprenticeship, in 2013/14 that dropped to 68.9% and in the 2014/15 cohort it was 71.7%.


What do colleagues think about apprenticeships? 

Our report summarises the results of a survey conducted with 100 random employees, including employees, self-employed people, team leaders, middle managers, senior management and CEOs or directors.  The results indicated a shocking lack of confidence in their own ability to train apprentices:

  • 97% of employees feel there should be training for those supporting apprentices
  • Overall 49% of the people surveyed said they didn’t feel confident or didn’t know if they were skilled to mentor an apprentice.
  • 63% do not and haven’t worked with an apprentice – 46% said they didn’t feel skilled to do so
  • Of the 16% who are working with or managing an apprentice currently, only 44% felt confident with supporting their pastoral, life, social and employability skills
  •  21% of the respondents had previously been in that position and only 48% of them reported that they felt confident in supporting apprentices.
  • Only 60% of managers and directors who responded felt confident in mentoring apprentices,
  • 96% of managers supported the need for training people supporting apprentices in providing pastoral, life, social and employability support;


How apprentices feel

The Mentoring School also undertook a similar survey with current and former apprentices, they had 25 respondents.

  • 48% said they felt they did not receive enough support from their employers. This figure rose to 57% of those in current apprenticeships.
  • 84% of respondents said they felt employers should receive training on supporting apprentices, 90% of current apprentices felt this should be the case.




The lowest level of confidence in supporting apprentices is actually the people working with current apprentices, whether they were managers or colleagues (44%). Only 3 in 10 people at team management level feel confident in supporting apprentices. Our concern is that as apprenticeships increase, so will the drop off rate, unless we also upskill the people looking after them in the workplace.

We call this the missing side of apprenticeships, both the training provider and the employer work to train the apprentice, but no one trains the employer how to do so. These statistics highlight the incredible skills shortage in the workforce and represent a huge risk for amplifying the number of apprentices across the country unless this is tackled.


About the author

Richard Daniel Curtis is an author and a reknowned behavioural expert, having widely appeared on TV and leading online publications.  He founded The Mentoring School in 2016, and the company’s multi-award winning training service offers courses for mentoring young people, refugees, apprentices, business leaders and entrepreneurs.  The company can also assist in setting up workplace mentoring schemes.

Author: Editorial Team

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