National Apprenticeship Week – Accessible Apprenticeships in 2024

Posted 05/02/2024

Over the next week, we'll be showcasing updates on accessible apprenticeships as well as providing an update on learning and skills at Unity Works. To start National Apprenticeship Week Unity Works' Learning and Skills Manager, Suzanne Thomson, will be reviewing progress on accessible apprenticeships.

A year on from our series for National Apprenticeship Week 2023, what has happened?

In 2023, we wrote a series of blogs looking at accessible, inclusive apprenticeships. We really enjoyed writing these and hope you enjoyed reading them! Here are the links again if you want to refresh yourself.

Apprenticeships: Why we need to embed inclusion, diversity and accessibility

National Apprenticeship Week – Apprentices’ experiences

National Apprenticeship Week – so, what about Unity Works?

National Apprentice Week – Accessible Apprenticeships

National Apprenticeship Week – how can you get involved?

So what’s new in 2024?

Apprentices with a learning disability and difficulties continue to be massively underrepresented across sectors, and accessible apprenticeships are still not well defined, understood or funded.

The latest report into apprenticeships starts and diversity, published November 20231, shows that the majority of apprenticeship starts were at the advanced and higher level (accounting for just under 44% and 34%  respectively) with a 6.2% increase in the number of higher level starts. Starts at Levels 6 and 7 also increased by 8.2%, despite the fact that that overall apprenticeships starts were down by 3.5%.

This suggests that while apprenticeships at these levels are enjoying good engagement and creating opportunities for people with the requirement entry criteria, lower level apprenticeships are being overlooked. This is contributing to the exclusion of people with a learning disability for whom vocational, work-based learning is the perfect way to springboard their career whilst developing the practical skills needs to progress.

Furthermore, on the 31 July 2023 the standalone traineeship programme came to an end. Traineeships were integrated back into the Study Programme and Adult Education Budget from 1 August 2023. Learners declaring a learning difficulty and/or disability (LLDD) accounted for 29.4% (3,340), and notably there has not been a strong voice of leadership for what alternatives these learners may seek.

AELP EDI conference

In September 2023, Unity Works attended the AELP’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion conference, where guest speakers included Cognassist and Dynamic Training. These two leaders in the field use innovative methods to challenge assumptions and break down barriers for neurodivergent learners and apprentices.

Maynard Exemptions

The AELP have been active in highlighting the lack of opportunity for learners with learning difficulties and disabilities in the apprenticeship model, and were involved with a pilot on Functional Skills flexibilities for learners with SEND. Currently, learners can access apprenticeships with Entry Level 3 in English and Maths providing they have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), known as the Maynard Exemptions. However, only 0.08% of apprentices have been able to make use of this route.

The AELP suggest that, due to the way in which EHCPs are written, there is often no clear reference to the impact on English and maths, meaning it is hard for training providers to identify where adjustments should be made, and indeed what adjustments can be made. Furthermore, if a learner does not already have an EHCP, the process to get one vastly exceeds the 8 week time period allowed to make reasonable adjustments for an apprentice’s learning. Unity Works supports the AELP in putting forward a case for English and maths qualifications to be dropped as an exit requirement for apprenticeships.

Keep reading over the week to hear from someone who graduated in 2023 from our accessible apprentice programme. 

For more information contact Suzanne Thomson, Learning & Skills Manager, at