THE number of people starting apprenticeships in Yeovil has fallen by almost 40% since 2016, analysis of House of Commons Library research reveals.

In the Yeovil constituency, 520 fewer apprenticeships started in 2022/23 than in 2015/16, data analysed by the Liberal Democrats shows.

Despite this, a spokesperson said that Yeovil College bucked the national trend and increased apprenticeships year-on-year, which is "massively supporting employability and business in the region".

Earlier this month the Conservative Party announced a new policy to boost the number of apprenticeships by scrapping some university courses. This comes after a decline of 172,000 apprenticeships starting per year in England, a fall of over a third.

The party introduced the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017. Under current rules, firms with an annual wage bill of above £3m are required to set aside 0.5% of their payroll for apprenticeships. However, not all organisations can use the Levy funds, which are reclaimed by the Treasury if left unused for two years.

The Liberal Democrats have committed to scrapping the Apprenticeship Levy and increasing pay for apprenticeships to at least the minimum wage.

Yeovil Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate, Adam Dance, said: “Young people across the country are being let down by a Conservative party that has failed to provide the opportunities they deserve.  The declining number of people starting apprenticeships in Yeovil shows just how badly broken this Conservative government has left our apprenticeship system.

“Urgent reform is needed. That’s why the Liberal Democrats have committed to stop treating apprentices as second-class workers by increasing the apprenticeship wage, and to reform the apprenticeship levy to boost numbers and stop this decline.”

Marcus Fysh, Conservative candidate for Yeovil, said: “I'm really pleased with the announcement of 100,000 more apprenticeships under Conservatives if we win the election. It adds to the amazing news of my getting Conservative Ministerial sign-off in April for £70m of capital funding for Yeovil College's expansion, to include a new sports hall and teaching blocks.”

He added: “Since I was first elected MP in 2015 we have already seen over 7,500 young people in Yeovil start an apprenticeship, meaning many more young people gaining the skills they need to secure good jobs. 

Rebecca Montacute, Labour candidate for Yeovil, said: “Apprenticeships are vital training opportunities for young people here in Yeovil. It's therefore incredibly concerning to see such a drop in the numbers available locally.

“I know from my own family's experience how transformative they can be - both my dad and my grandad enjoyed successful careers after their own apprenticeships. If elected, I will fight to ensure policy in Westminster supports the creation of high-quality apprenticeship opportunities locally."

Serena Wootton, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Yeovil says: “I agree apprenticeships are a vital service for Yeovil, with so many companies locally wanting to expand. Matching that need with our young people who want to leave school with clear work-based skills. So many young people today do not have access to family support to pay for University or Further College learning and Apprenticeships are the natural way forward and this needs additional support and funding.”

“Tuition fees are crippling your young people and apprenticeships give them a very targeted training experience without the pressure of starting their adult life with debt.” 

All the parliamentary candidates standing in Yeovil: Steve Ashton (Independent); Laura Bailhache (Reform UK); Adam Dance (Lib Dem); Marcus Fysh (Conservative); Rebecca Montacute (Labour); Serena Wootton (Green Party).