If dropout rates are high, what’s the opportunity and what’s the solution?

Introduction: The Current Context
Since 2015, the Government has driven improvement in apprenticeships. This programme of reform was responsible for the launch of the levy and the introduction of standards, amongst other changes.

In 2019, Ofsted revised its inspection criteria, releasing the New Educational Framework. The emphasis of this NEF was on intent, implementation, and impact, with much-reduced credit given to achieving data-driven outcomes. With the apprenticeship reform's introduction of the behavioural standards, and now Ofsted introducing two of only four criteria that focus directly on these components, many providers are rightly worried about their next inspection visit.

This article is the fifth in a series of short reads covering the pain points faced by apprenticeship training providers in this new world.

In this piece we take a further look at the challenges experienced by employers when the importance of releasing apprentices for OTJ training is emphasised.

Dropout rates of apprentices
In April 2021, the skills minister ordered an investigation into the high apprenticeship dropout rates. Gillian Keegan claimed she was “astonished” by the low retention rate of 60.2% in 2019/2020, which was a marked improvement on the 48.4% of the year before.

Obviously, completion rate and achievement rate are closely correlated, and the low completion rate may be a symptom of the race to enrol created by the Government targets.

The retention rate under the old framework was 69%, which still is not as high as FE courses would expect to achieve.

While Keegan calls for an investigation, it is only possible to surmise why the dropout rates might be so high. It could be a disconnect in expectations between the employer, apprentice, and training provider. It might be that tutors do not make the most of induction periods to build the necessary connections with learners. It could also be that the apprentice does not yet have the character to deal with the world of work and needs much more coaching and mentoring to be ready for what is expected.

It is not surprising that when a person feels known, they feel valued. Equally, when organisations demonstrate they are invested in an individual’s success they are likely to remain loyal.

Investing authentically in the development of the person can be more than enough to improve retention rates. Entelechy uses methodology founded in coaching and mentoring that puts the individual at the core of learning.

Yet, equally powerful is the development of work-based behaviours that help the apprentice become employable. Cohesion between employer and apprentice is ensured when the apprentice can take responsibility within the workplace. The integration of Character and Behaviours in the Entelechy solution places emphasis on giving the apprentice the “right stuff” to become work-effective and develop a stickability within a profession.