Closing the Opportunity Gap

Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week, Coach Core is pushing to revitalise entry-level apprenticeships

By James Burbidge · 1st February 2024

New government figures show that despite apprenticeship starts in England rising 7 per cent in the first quarter of 2023/24 (compared to the same period last year), entry-level intermediate apprenticeship starts have declined by 2.5%, continuing a concerning trend. The number of people starting entry-level apprenticeships has fallen by 74% since 2015/16 (from 291,300 to 76,300).

We are concerned that this means a significant decline in the number of young and disadvantaged people taking up apprenticeships, which can be a vital route into education and employment when others have closed. The decline across all apprenticeship levels has been felt hardest by those living in the most deprived postcodes, who have seen an 18% drop in apprenticeship starts, vs just 2% for the least deprived (since 2017/18).

Coach Core believes that apprenticeships are an effective tool to ensure opportunities for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Estimates from the Social Mobility Commission show that disadvantaged female learners with an entry-level apprenticeship qualification earn 11.6% more at age 28, compared to individuals holding a different qualification at the same level.

Apprenticeships are a powerful way to empower young people and to create a more diverse workforce. Not only do they provide a desperately needed opportunity for young people facing barriers to employment, but a more diverse workforce strengthens the organisation, through better community engagement, improved decision making and increased employee retention. We’re concerned about the long-term impact on young people who traditionally may experience barriers, discrimination, and lack of opportunities when this bottom rung of the ladder isn’t available.

Paul Thompson, Director of People and Learning at Coach Core

Apprenticeships – especially intermediate ones – are a useful tool to use when trying to recruit a more diverse workforce because they are accessible by young people who have faced many barriers to employment including lack of opportunity, lack of academic qualifications, lack of network, discrimination, and the need to earn a wage immediately. These people have tremendous value to offer – they simply need to be given an accessible route in.

Coach Core is calling on organisations to use apprenticeships – in particular entry-level apprenticeships – as part of their recruitment strategy moving forward.

I am now a community sports development coach coordinating areas around Newcastle, as well as delivering sessions to target groups. I currently have a consultation role within my job which I’m really enjoying finding out the barriers for girls and woman in sport and producing a plan working with girls to create a new programme across Newcastle.

Anne Marie, former apprentice


Sign up to our quarterly newsletter for the latest updates and activity from Coach Core:


3 Big wins at the UK Coaching Awards

A Coach Core programme, apprentice and Learning Coach have all won at UK Coaching’s prestigious awards.

Read more


It's like a dream come true

Evaluating Coach Core’s 2021 Northumberland, Tyne & Wear programme

Read more


Support us

Our work is only possible with the generous support of people like you

Find out how you can help