03Challenges and Responses: How local initiatives are delivering apprenticeships

Challenge 1: Apprenticeships do not meet the skills gaps of local economies

Addressing skills gaps is a priority for many cities. The UKCES Employer Skills Survey showed that the incidence of businesses with vacancies due to skills shortages has doubled since 2011.22 While apprenticeships provide an opportunity to address skills shortages by training people in the skills that are in demand, the system doesn’t always perform this function. For example, in Sunderland, which has the highest number of apprenticeship starts per 1,000 working-age population, analysis has suggested that the key skills gaps in the next two years will be in the food and drink sector.23 24 However, retail and commercial enterprises – which includes food and drink alongside a series of other commercial apprenticeships – only accounted for 17 per cent of apprenticeships in Sunderland in 2013/14; the majority were in business, administration and law and health.25 The following case studies demonstrate how local partners have intervened to ensure a better match between apprenticeships and the demands of the local economy.

Case study 1: Liverpool Chamber Training: using employer networks through the Chamber of Commerce to support the design and offer of apprenticeship training

Liverpool Chamber Training was established in 1986 as Trident Training, a training provider affiliated with but separate from the Chamber of Commerce. In 2009, the name was changed to Liverpool Chamber Training (LCT), and over the last year, the two organisations have become more closely affiliated.26

Previously, teams from both the Chamber of Commerce and LCT were engaging separately with local employer partners, with little coordination. To streamline their activities they created a single business engagement team and co-located the Chamber of Commerce and the LCT. Since the introduction of a single communication channel in 2015 they have started to see the benefits; engagement with employers has increased, and employers report higher satisfaction as a result of the more joined-up services, as well as the credibility which comes from being part of the Chamber.27

Over this time, the Chamber has also been able to leverage its relationships with local businesses to establish their employment and skills needs and to better assess the types of support required.

The success rate (the number of apprentices successfully completing the training) of LCT is around 80 per cent, compared to around 70 per cent for Liverpool as a whole.28

Case study 2: Year Up, USA: using local labour market intelligence to inform apprenticeship offers

Year Up is a one year training programme that provides low income adults aged 18-24 with a route into work through skills development, college credits, internships and other support. Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Year Up operates across 16 US cities.

When Year Up started in 2000, it identified its niche in addressing skills shortages in middle-skill, entry level software support jobs. The training initially focussed on addressing this shortage in skills that were above a high school diploma but below a college degree. Over time, and in response to feedback from partner companies, it has diversified and created new ‘tracks’ in finance and sales, as well as additional training in programming, business management, and customer service.

Recently, Year Up has further invested in identifying growth industries in cities to increase the relevance of their training to local companies. They employ Subject Matter Experts in each city they work in and use real-time labour market information to develop a training curriculum that is responsive to the needs of local businesses. They also try to respond to more specific areas of vacancy identified by partner companies which require additional skills – a recent example has been training in anti-money laundering. They design these tracks alongside the employer partner, mapping the curriculum to the requirements of the job.

With the creation of new ‘tracks’, Year Up is able to offer long term career growth for young people, leading to the best possible outcomes both for young people enrolled on the programme and for partner companies.

Since 2000, Year Up has worked with more than 13,000 young people and 250 corporate partners in 16 cities. Demand for placements is high, with large numbers of applicants turned away. Nationally, Year Up has a 75 per cent of higher graduation rate, and at least 85 per cent of Year Up graduates were employed or at school full time within four months of completing the programme.27

These two case studies illustrate two different ways in which local partners better match up the needs of the local economy with apprenticeships being offered. Both examples highlight the importance of two key ingredients that can help to match apprenticeships to the needs of the local economy: firstly, working very closely with local employers; and secondly, using up-to-date labour market information (from real-time data and local labour market experts).



  • 22 UKCES (2016) Employer Skills Survey 2015: UK Results. Evidence Report 97. London: UKCES. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/498890/UKCESS_2015_Report_-_v4_for_web.pdf
  • 23 BIS (2016) Skills Funding Agency data.
  • 24 Sunderland City Council (2011) Sunderland Skills and Employment Demand Study 2011. TBR. http://bit.ly/23ybBGs
  • 25 BIS (2015) Skills Funding Agency data.
  • 26 Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce (2016) History. http://www.liverpoolchamber.org.uk/about/history.aspx
  • 27 Centre for Cities interview
  • 28 Liverpool Chamber Training (2015) 250 new apprenticeships created in 2014 http://www.liverpoolchambertraining.co.uk/41/section.aspx/39/250_apprentices
  • 29 Centre for Cities interview