BLOG: Apprenticeships across the ages! The ‘fall and rise’ of apprenticeships over the years

Posted on: 17th Nov 2023

At Ignite Training, our driving force is seeing the benefits our apprenticeships bring for both individual learners and their employers.

That’s why we are so passionate about widening access to apprenticeships – and that means developing a portfolio of courses catering to many industries and skillsets.

However, to truly unlock the power of vocational education, one of our top priorities must be challenging stereotypes about apprenticeships and who can benefit from them.

One of the key misconceptions is that apprenticeships are merely an alternative to university for school leavers considering their options following their GCSEs or A-Levels. The age range of our apprentices exposes this outdated notion as myth, with the birth years of our apprentices ranging from 1962-2007.

In this blog, we look at how apprenticeships have evolved over the decades from when our most senior apprentices were born, to the present day.

Narrowing options to opening doors

After World War II, the growth in apprenticeships was staggering, and by the 1960s, a third of male school leavers were studying an apprenticeship.

However, sheer numbers were not an indication of effectiveness or true value for learners or employers.

Apprenticeships came to be seen as having a narrow focus, almost exclusively for boys, and reserved to the traditional heavy industries or a limited number of other professions such as plumbing and electrical work.

The current apprenticeships landscape is unrecognisable. The gender balance of those starting apprenticeships stands at roughly 50-50, and a huge range of courses are available.

Our apprenticeship portfolio spans Levels 2 to 5 with courses in sports, education, health and wellbeing, content creation and operations management.

No longer do apprenticeships narrow your employment options to certain industries. Instead, they broaden your options, setting up graduates for success in a wide range of sectors.

We strive to provide apprentices with choices, with apprenticeships acting as the first step on their career path, or as a stepping stone to further studies. This can either be at university or staying on to the next level of your apprenticeship (something 50% of our apprentices choose to do).

A cost-effective strategy

In 1968, a Royal Commission concluded apprenticeships offered ‘no guarantee’ that apprentices had ‘acquired any particular level of skills’ or even ‘passed any form of test of ability’. Apprenticeships came to be seen as unresponsive to the needs of industry and providing little benefit to those employing apprentices, with numbers of apprentices halving between the 1970s and 1990s.

This led to a second lingering misconception about apprenticeships – that they come as a net cost with little benefit to employers, with significant time and resources dedicated to very junior members of staff.

However, in the present day, employing apprentices is a smart, strategic, business decision that can empower your organisation to achieve key business objectives.

Funding comes via the apprenticeship levy which means organisations only pay 5% of the costs associated with training, recruiting and assessing apprentices. With a range of grants also available depending on eligibility, employing apprentices is an extraordinarily cost-effective move.

Apprenticeships can and should be undertaken by people at all stages of their career and is an excellent way to upskill existing staff as well as welcoming in new talent.


Apprenticeships have changed beyond recognition over the years, with the benefits more widely spread across industries, backgrounds and age groups and many financial incentives that did not exist before.

Investing in the power of continuing professional development enhances the skillset of your people, which can boost job satisfaction, staff retention, overall performance and future success of your organisation.

Get in touch!

If you represent an organisation considering hiring an apprentice, speak to our friendly team today who can provide more information.

Our Business Development Manager Sorcha Murphy can be contacted via or email for more details.

We hope to hear from you soon!

About Ignite Training

Established in 1999, Ignite’s primary aim is to actively inspire people, and to help create a sense of achievement for everyone. Based in Oxford and operating nationally, we provide a portfolio of training and services to individuals, schools and the sports industry, ranging from weekly clubs for tots to adult courses and apprenticeships.

About Ignite Training