There are still stigmas attached to choosing an apprenticeship, compared to opting for A Levels and a university degree, according to a panel of education experts speaking at a recent UKFast apprenticeship event.
The claims come as the public spending watchdog says the government is “very unlikely” to hit a 2020 target of 3 million new apprenticeship starts.
UKFast Enterprise MD Jonathan Bowers, who hosted the event, said: “Through our work with schools we see that they are still pushing university because that’s what they’re measured on, even though apprenticeships are a better option for many young people.”
During the event the panel uncovered a series of myths associated with apprenticeships which cause them to remain an undervalued educational option.
1) Apprenticeships are only available in manual industries
A common misconception is that apprenticeships are only offered in manual industries. The government website lists all of the UK’s hundreds of apprenticeship schemes, which cover a vast range of subject areas including IT, retail, public relations, business management and legal practices.
Tom Robinson, Head of Curriculum at UKFast, said, “There is an apprenticeship for every business. The Institute for Apprenticeships is a great resource for businesses to find what is out there.”
2) Apprenticeships are an option for those who perform worse academically
Apprenticeships are often pigeon-holed as an option for those students achieving lower grades at GCSE, who aren’t academically capable enough to achieve offers from university.
Speaking as an ex-science teacher, Robinson added, “Head teachers are still looking at the statistics of who is going to university, how many go to red brick universities and how many go to Oxbridge, but this is an outdated approach and doesn’t address the amazing opportunities that are out there across different sectors.”
Lucy Bracken, IT apprentice at UKFast, revealed that she received four unconditional offers to universities and still chose the apprenticeship programme at UKFast as it offers the opportunity to practically apply the taught theory and work with cutting-edge technology, something an undergraduate degree lacked.
3) Apprentices won’t earn enough to live on
Something else a university degree doesn’t offer is the opportunity to earn while you learn. The hands-on approach means apprentices are paid alongside their experience in the classroom.
Georgia Fitzgerald, Programme Manager at The Juice Academy, a digital media apprenticeship scheme, said, “Our apprenticeship is a year and a half and by the time the apprentices are finishing they’re already on the National Living Wage of £15,000.
“Someone doing marketing at university for three years is not even earning by the time an apprentice is earning a salary.”
4) You can only start an apprenticeship at 16
Apprenticeships are commonly pursued by students finishing their GCSEs as an alternative to A-Levels and an undergraduate degree, but many programmes are open to school leavers, 18-year-olds, graduates and older people.
Businesses often don’t consider or aren’t aware of the options and advantages of enrolling existing employees onto apprenticeships to retrain in a new field.
Tom Robinson highlighted the importance of this: “Retraining as an apprentice is becoming more popular and crucial in a world in which old jobs are becoming obsolete and roles require new skills. Artificial intelligence is changing the way we work and what jobs are available. It’s important businesses retrain staff to compete with machine learning.”
5) There is no support outside of the programme
Apprenticeships typically involve a training provider and a business to facilitate the programme, however there is an assumption that apprenticeships provide no support to apprentices from professionals outside of the scheme. However, schemes like the Manchester United Academy apprenticeship offer regular peripheral support.
Wayne Cahill, Education Officer at the Manchester United Academy, explained, “We have 12-week reviews when someone from the Premier League, completely away from the club and school, comes in to interview the apprentices. It’s about having the right type of support.”