Apprenticeship numbers have fallen sharply for the second year running in spite of the government making workplace training a cornerstone of its jobs policy.
Provisional numbers released by the Department for Business show 66,000 fewer people started apprenticeships in the last academic than in 2013/14.
Across the North-East 26,730 apprenticeships were started in 2014/15 – down by 3,750 from a year earlier, and a drop of almost 12,000 on the figure for 2011/12.
In Darlington the provisional year-on-year figures showed 220 fewer people started apprenticeships this year, while in Stockton there we 460 fewer.
A Government spokesperson said the provisional figure could be revised upwards when the final numbers are published later this year.
Skills Minister Nick Boles said: “Small, medium and large employers in the North-East are playing a crucial role in creating a modern and competitive workforce that boosts the country’s productivity and prosperity.
“I want to work with as many of these businesses as possible to ensure they continue to shape the future of apprenticeships so that we can reach the target of 3 million by 2020.”
However, the drive to boost skills appears to have stalled amid a steadily downward trend in apprenticeship take-ups over the last three years.