Educating children about the benefits of an apprenticeship is crucial to ensuring a continuous uptake.
We all know that apprenticeships are a great alternative to university, however a recent proposal by Skills Minister Nick Boles may rub some apprentices up the wrong way - and we can see why.
Apprentices could be asked to sign a contract upon enrolment requiring them to go back to schools to give careers advice on apprenticeships according to Boles.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference earlier this week, he called for help in getting more young people to take up an apprenticeship as well as employers creating earn and learn vacancies. Apprentices who go back to schools to speak to children can then give a much more authentic account of what it means to be an apprentice and the opportunities that can be gained from them.
He said, ‘One of the things we're thinking about is asking every apprentice to sign a simple contract. We are going to ask people in that contract to agree to go back to that school and talk to the youngsters coming behind them about the opportunities of apprenticeships, so everybody really understands from the horse's mouth what a great thing this is.'
We love the idea of peer to peer engagement at Training and Courses as well as having apprentices speak to children who are going to be making a big educational decision. However, formally signing a contract agreeing to this condition before taking up an apprenticeship can be off putting.
The government has done well in creating new apprenticeship opportunities and naturally they will want this uptake to continue as they work towards their ambitious target of three million apprenticeships by 2020. But placing terms and conditions on apprenticeships isn't the way to go.
We don't see this requirement forced on university students so why should we enforce this on apprentices? If we want apprenticeships to have an equal standing to university degrees then we should be treating them equally.
This means giving students a choice.
This also means not treating apprenticeships as work experience placements. The idea of having an apprentice go back to schools and talk about their experience feels very much like what students are expected to do after two weeks of work experience.
There will also be students who perhaps realise that an apprenticeship isn't the right route for them - just like students who come to the realisation that university isn't for them. This is even more reason to give apprentices a choice.
Rather than take somewhat forceful measures, it's time the government focused their sights on educators, career advisors and employers. There's far more value in engaging employers as these are the people students will be turning to for apprenticeship opportunities.
Advice and guidance from apprentices is no good if the opportunities aren't available.