Backing for apprenticeships

When considering steps after compulsory education, students have a range of options – further education, employment or apprenticeships. Apprenticeships have been making something of a revival, as the Government strives to reduce the numbers of 16-24 year olds classified as NEET – not in education, employment or training. And a recent survey commissioned by The Sutton Trust indicates that many people believe that apprenticeships offer young people a superior chance of securing employment than getting a degree.

More than 1/3 of adults chose advanced apprenticeships as the best option for young people’s future career prospects, compared to just over 1/5 who believed university degrees were the best options.

There was also a call for apprenticeships to be designed equivalent to A levels or degree level, rather than GCSE level.

These results are surprising, as other research indicates that more than half of parents (56%) encourage their children to study for a degree but only 40% encourage their children to study for apprenticeships; parents still see apprenticeships as second best to qualifications. 65% of teachers would rarely or never advise a high-achieving student to consider an apprenticeship – this speaks volumes as to how apprenticeships are still viewed as inferior.

Director of research at The Sutton Trust, Conor Ryan, points to evidence from countries such as Germany and Switzerland, who run three-year, good-quality apprenticeships as a real alternative for students. “We still have a mountain to climb to match ambitions in England.”

Rod Bristow, president of Pearson Core Markets, said: “We know that the best vocational systems around the world combine the academic skills of ‘know-what’ and ‘know-why’ with the more applied skills of ‘know-how’.

The numbers of 16 and 17 year olds signing up for apprenticeships are up 15% on last year. There is certainly an appetite amongst young people. We now need to match the ambition and appetite with the acknowledgement and awards.

Vince Cable, Business Secretary, says he wants to see university degrees and apprenticeships on an equal footing.

Helen Robinson