Looking back at my school years, there was never any mention of apprenticeships.
It was like they didn’t exist. The natural progression post-GCSE included A Levels and UCAS applications for university. Though it provides a great experience, I’m starting to wonder whether I would have still opted for university had I known all of my options.
This is a sentiment that is increasingly being echoed among graduates. Though apprenticeships are making a comeback with government and employer support, graduates have been rightly questioning why their schools failed to mention this route of study.
Speaking to Training and Courses, Mary Palmer, the Work Based Learning Manager at Bedford College said, ‘The way schools are funded and measured is still very biased towards retention to sixth form and academic achievement.’
A 2014 Huffington Post article reported that students were educating their career advisors on apprenticeships and were given detention if they didn’t attend UCAS tutorials - even after deciding they didn’t want to go to university.
Even more shocking was a 2013 article that revealed that 93% of students weren’t even aware of apprenticeships and felt that they were not receiving adequate advice on all of their options following secondary school.
Speaking to the Huffington Post, Katja Hall, the chief policy director at Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said ‘The quality of careers advice in England’s schools remains in severe crisis. For 93 out of 100 young people to not feel in possession of the facts they need to make informed choices about their future is a damning indictment.’
Considering all the work the government is currently doing to raise the profile of apprenticeships and change attitudes, statistics like this reveals a very stark reality for apprenticeships in schools today. Current plans to protect the term ‘apprenticeship’ and collaborating with employers to ensure that they create legitimate opportunities are all lost if students aren’t even aware that apprenticeships exist in the first place.
Palmer continues, ‘We are hearing from high performing apprentices that they were not made aware of the apprenticeship option when they were at school. Bedford College is therefore working with schools and sixth forms locally to provide information about apprenticeships and has widened its apprenticeship offer to support progression to advanced and higher apprenticeships.’
Teachers and parents are in very influential positions and at Training and Courses we strongly believe that more needs to be done in order to engage these groups and educate them extensively on the opportunities apprenticeships can provide. It’s not an option for students who have underachieved or failed to get into university. It is an equally beneficial alternative, which if taken, can provide students with far more working experience than graduates receive in a three year degree.
When asked what can be done to engage and educate parents further on the benefit of apprenticeships, Palmer explains that ‘Training providers are working hard to target young people and their parents to ensure that information about apprenticeships is available. However, the most effective way to enter dialogue about apprenticeships with this audience is through schools; therefore change needs to be top down through Local Education Authorities, Head Teachers and National School Governors to provide access to information about apprenticeships to all students from year 10 upwards.’
An equal effort must be made across all groups to ensure a thorough understanding of apprenticeships in order to see an uptake. Introducing standards is a great way to reduce the number of employers exploiting apprentices; however a lack of encouragement from influential figures within an individual’s day to day life can have detrimental effects.
Read more about our coverage on apprenticeships on Training and Courses and start your own search today.