How can apprenticeships shed their blue collar image?

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Recent research by proves that apprenticeships and school leaver programmes are still viewed as university’s poor relation.

This is fuelled by a significant knowledge gap among teachers and parents which results in continuing stigma.

The 2015 School & College Leaver annual research report conducted by and interviewed over 10,000 school and college students across the UK as well as 1,000 parents, 500 teachers, 280 careers advisors, and 27 key employers offering graduate and school leaver programmes.

The results cover a wide range of topics including careers guidance practice, subject teacher knowledge of school leaver options, and how school college students and their parents make decisions, habits and form opinions.

Findings show that despite the Government’s recent legalisation of the term “apprenticeship”, its creation of 2.3 million apprenticeships since last Parliament and its recent triumph of beating its target to create 22,000 apprenticeships by the end of 2014, apprenticeships and other alternatives to university are still viewed as ‘second class’ educational options to students.

Too clever

In the report, 11% of parents stated that they believed that their child was “too clever” to complete an apprenticeship, even though 40% were unable to define the meaning of a Higher Apprenticeship with almost 60% believing that it is equivalent to GCSEs.  54% stressed that they wanted their child to go to university claiming that “it will give them the best opportunity to progress in their career”.

Teachers seem equally misinformed when it comes to higher education alternatives with over 80% of teachers saying that they wished that they were better educated about apprenticeships, traineeships and school leaver programmes.

This lack of awareness could prove detrimental to the future growth of apprenticeships and the British economy as a whole as 45% of students mentioned pressure from parents and peers as key reasons for not exploring alternatives to university. 80% stated their parents as their greatest influences on making career decisions and in turn 47.7% of parents said that they go to their children’s teachers and careers advisors to access information about higher education options for their children.

Despite continuing pressure to apply to university, only 54% of students said that they are only considering traditional university routes, which implies a significant number are considering other options.

Funding cuts

The research comes at a time when the Government prepares to take its share of £900m of cuts facing the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Department for Education, and apprenticeship providers have been told that they will have to wait until after 8 July budget for a decision on in-year apprenticeship funding growth requests.

Policy advisors have criticised the Government’s plans to create three million apprenticeships by 2020 as the schemes are largely ‘unfunded’ which will cripple the college-based part of the education system and with it it’s ability to provide technical, employer-facing education.

The question is: if the Government aren’t willing to give the appropriate funding needed for apprenticeship growth to happen, how will they ever be placed on an equal footing with degrees?

Apprenticeship starters to overtake graduates

Research made by the Centre for Economics and Business Research revealed that at the end of 2014 apprentices had contributed £34bn to the British economy and over 80% of employers from the AllAboutSchoolLeavers report predicted that the number of apprenticeships starters would overtake graduates within the next five years.

The majority of parents and guardians aspire for their children to go to university. This is not because they feel pressured to do so but because they believe that university offers the best career prospects for their children. Apprenticeships and school leaver programmes still come with a certain stigma attached to them, and work must be done to communicate with parents and schools alike to highlight the benefits of choosing an apprenticeship.

Parents and guardians must be informed of the value of apprenticeships and school leavers programmes which in turn must be backed by Governmental funding to diffuse this skewed perception. Teachers who can influence both parents and children must be targeted and better informed. By educating teachers about the value of apprenticeships and school leaver programmes we can change the view of parents and guardians.

Apprenticeships are an increasingly important part of the UK’s long –term plan for improved workforce development and enhanced productivity. They provide young, ambitious individuals, not necessarily suited for university, the chance to gain vital skills and training in a specific industry that will end in a national qualification and a way into a career. It is time that everyone was better informed about alternatives to university.

 Author: Georgia Leefe is the Digital Content Editor at AllAboutSchoolLeavers. Read the report here

Georgia Leefe is a Communications Executive at AllAboutSchoolLeavers.

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