Number of apprentices per department revealed: DWP smashes target while MoJ has just 0.3%

New figures reveal Department for Work and Pensions is among Whitehall employers with highest proportion of apprentices at 3.1% of workforce

Credit: Kirsty O'Connor/PA

By Tamsin.Rutter

13 Mar 2018

The Ministry of Justice employs the fewest apprentices as a proportion of headcount of the main government departments while the Department for Work and Pensions employs the most, new figures released by Whitehall reveal.

Last year the government set out plans to create at least 30,000 apprenticeship starts in the civil service by 2020, with each department agreeing to ensure that 2.3% of its workforce is made up of new apprentices.

But a series of parliamentary questions revealed that the vast majority of government ministries are below the target, with the MoJ recording that just 0.3% of its workforce is made up of apprentices.


The data was released following a series of parliamentary questions from Gordon Marsden, shadow minister for further education and skills, and other Labour MPs.

Of the main government departments that released their figures, the MoJ had the fewest apprentices as a proportion of headcount, which in the MoJ’s case was 0.3% of around 67,000 staff.

The department said 120 staff were employed as apprentices on the Fast Track programme and 104 staff were undertaking an apprenticeship programme as part of their development, while 119 applications from other existing employees for these programmes were pending. The ministry added it had implemented plans to deliver the 2.3% target by the end of 2019-20.

The Home Office also recorded low figures, with 135 apprentices, equating to 0.46% of its total workforce. But it said 170 more apprentices were going through pre-employment checks and should be in post by the end of the financial year.

Department % apprentices
CPS 3.3%
DWP 3.1%
DExEU 2.8%
DIT 2.2%
MHCLG 2.2%
DfE 1.8%
MoD 1.8%
DHSC 1.8%
BEIS 1.6%
DfT 1.6%
FCO 1.4%
HM Treasury 1.3%
Defra 1%
DCMS 0.7%
Home Office 0.5%
MoJ 0.3%

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport reported just six apprentices, which equates to 0.7% of its workforce.

Margot James, a DCMS minister, said the department was reviewing its apprenticeship strategy in line with the civil service’s 2.3% goal, and aimed to meet this target by the end of April 2019. 

“Apprenticeships represent an opportunity for DCMS to increase to social mobility, diversity and strengthen our skills base,” she added.

“We aim to do this by taking on Fast Track apprentices, filling appropriate vacancies with apprentices and supporting existing staff to take up apprenticeships to further their own development.

“We believe the department is making progress and will continue working to increase the number of apprentices.”

Just 1% of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs workforce are apprentices (32 people); HM Treasury said it had 18 apprentices (1.3% of its total); and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office employed 73 apprentices – with 35 of them working for its Trading Fund, FCO Services – at nearly 1.4% of its total global workforce or 2% of its UK-based staff.

Some 1.58% of staff at the Department for Transport and its executive agencies were reported to be apprentices (230 people), but the department said there were more apprenticeship starts “in progress” which will increase numbers.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy revealed that 1.6% of its workforce were doing apprenticeships, while the Department of Health and Social Care said it had 27 (1.8% of total headcount). Some 1.6% of staff at the Department for Transport and its executive agencies were reported to be apprentices (230 people), but the department said there were more apprenticeship starts “in progress” which will increase numbers.

The Ministry of Defence said it had 836 civilian personnel employed on an apprenticeship scheme as of 6 March 2018, 1.8% of the total civilian workforce, and around 20,000 apprentices in the armed forces (14% of the total).

The Department for Education also revealed that 1.8% of its employees (107 of 5960) were apprenticeship starters in 2017-18, though the department added there may be further apprentice starts before the end of the financial year. This is up from 0.9% of its workforce in 2016-17.

Among the departments that achieved apprentice proportions of above 2% was the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which employed 37, or 2.2% of its headcount. The two Brexit ministries, the Department for International Trade and the Department for Exiting the European Union, had 39 (2.2% of its employees) and 17 (around 2.8% of its 600-strong workforce) apprentices respectively.

DWP was one of the most successful employers of apprentices among the data, recording 2,563 people undertaking an apprenticeship as of January out of a total workforce of 83,147, which equates to 3.1% of its headcount.

Another high achiever was the Crown Prosecution Service, which employs 183 apprentices – 3.3% of its workforce. But the Government Legal Department had just 19 apprentices, a mere 0.8% of its total, while the Serious Fraud Office, the Attorney General’s Office and HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate had none.

The Northern Ireland Office said it had three apprentices (2.9% of the workforce); the Wales Office also three (6% of its total); and the Scotland Office said it employed apprentices but “due to the number involved, an estimate cannot be provided to protect the privacy and identity of individuals concerned”. Two apprentices work in the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons, employed by the Cabinet Office, and they make up 22% of the leader’s private office staff.

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