Uptake of apprenticeship loans still low
Only 404 people have applied for loans for adult apprenticeships in the three months since September, official data suggests.
This may suggest would-be adult apprentices are being put off by having to borrow to fund their courses, says an education charity.
Official targets are for 25,000 people this year to borrow about £4,000 for higher and advanced apprenticeships.
The government says numbers may pick up later in the year.
It points out that not all apprenticeships start at the beginning of the academic year.Low uptake
Until this year apprentices have not had to contribute to the costs of their training - but from September 2013 some 25,000 over-24s on advanced or higher level apprenticeships have been expected to take out a loan to be paid back once they are earning.
A further 50,000 adults are expected to have their training costs paid by their employers.
Trainees under 24 still do not have to pay.
Figures published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on Thursday show that in the first quarter of 2013-14 only 404 people had applied for the loans.
NIACE says a second set of official figures, published on Thursday show that by contrast some 197,000 people were enrolled on higher and advanced level apprenticeships in 2012-13.'Urgent action'
NIACE is concerned that the low uptake of the loans may indicate that would-be trainees are being deterred by being required to part-fund their courses.
The charity's chief executive David Hughes said: "We have continually voiced our concerns about the impact loans for apprenticeships would have.
"However as today's figures show, that impact has been even more severe than anyone first feared."
He called on the government to take "urgent action", including writing off some loans and subsidising under-represented groups on higher and advanced level apprenticeships.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said: "Application numbers indicate that employers and learners are not engaging with loans in apprenticeships. We are keeping a close watch on the data and the implications for the apprenticeship programme."