Apprenticeships: the answer to youth unemployment?

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With increased tuition fees, students are graduating with more debt than ever before. Malcolm Furber, President of CIMA, argues it’s time to recognise that university is not for everyone and emphasise the value of apprenticeships  

A recent Government report highlighted that nearly one million young people under the age of 25 in the UK are unemployed. This is a shocking statistic and one that we are well aware highlights a big problem.

Businesses and companies have to be savvier ahead of the recession and expect more from their employees – wanting them to make immediate impact in their role as soon as they start.

Young people need to be better equipped

This means that young people entering the workforce must be better equipped with a repertoire of business tools and skills than ever before.

It has also never been a more expensive time for young people to attend university. With tuition fees rising, students are graduating in more debt than ever before, and are being forced to choose between going down the ‘traditional’ education route or taking their chances in the employment world.

It’s never been a more competitive time for the youth of Britain to get on the career ladder.

Higher education is not for everyone

We now realise that not everyone has the opportunity to go into higher education (or the desire), and this is exciting as there are other pathways for young people who want to enter the world of work and a professional career like accounting.

Young people with the right attributes and skills often have the talent to succeed in the workplace learning on the job. Schemes that get young people into apprenticeships and on-the-job training are revolutionising the way young people are thinking about the next steps after their schooling years.

High value apprenticeships bridge the gap for students in the professional world and provide hands-on practical work experience while building up a career with solid foundations.

The important role that parents play

Parents of our young people play an important role here, as do schools. There is too much emphasis placed on attending university and not enough on other opportunities.

There needs to be better recognition from all parties that there is more than one reputable way of getting a job and we all have to work on ensuring that we continue to promote the benefits of apprenticeships across all industries. This needs to happen so that we can change perceptions and so that apprenticeships are seen as an equal pathway to university education.

With this comes the need to adapt what we offer young people in the way of professional qualifications. One of the things I am proud of as President of CIMA is our motto: ‘Helping both people and businesses to succeed’.  It’s important that we listen to both parties to develop qualifications that are relevant to both markets.

In accountancy and finance we have always offered viable alternatives to young people that want to enter through non-graduate means, but over the last few years we’ve really responded by offering apprenticeship opportunities that are highly sought after and show real results.

Apprenticeship schemes: an opportunity to gain vital business skills

Apprenticeship schemes enable school leavers to gain the vital business skills that they need to succeed now and in the future whilst contributing immediately to the company. There is always room for improvement but we are making a good start, and I urge other industry sectors to look to apprenticeship models.

It’s important that we all work together more cohesively. Schools and businesses have a bigger role to play locally and globally.

In August last year I had the pleasure to attend the 2013 CIMA Global Business Challenge final in South Africa. Whilst there I met bright young students from 24 countries around the globe, all of them showing such amazing potential to achieve so much in their careers.

With the continual advancements in digital technology at their fingers, the younger generations are now learning across many different platforms and are sharing information across continents. Technology is changing the ways of the working world.

Employers are in need of employees that will make an immediate impact, so we need to work together to identify the skills shortage and to shape our young people to fill these gaps with the right skills, qualifications and learning opportunities.

Ultimately, we need to give students an accurate understanding of their chosen field (through high quality and comprehensive careers advice), as well as the chance to acquire as many skills as possible to strive hard to succeed in an ever changing landscape.

Malcolm Furber is the President of CIMA. He runs his own consulting business, where he has played a major role in business improvement assignments in both the private and public sectors.

Malcolm Furber is a former President of CIMA.

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