GUEST POST: Improving the apprenticeship pathway for young people

In this guest post, David Marshall, CEO of Marshall ACM looks at how e-learning can play a key role in helping students to make informed decisions about apprenticeships.

Last week, the Work Foundation called for a fundamental reform of apprenticeships in the UK stating that radical change is needed to provide youngsters with ‘strong vocational’ pathways into the labour market and help tackle the youth unemployment crisis.

With more than 100,000 employers now using apprentices and a record 859,000 people taking part in an apprenticeship in 2012/2013, participation in apprenticeships is at its highest level ever. But the figures don’t tell the full story. This growth has largely been driven by apprentices aged over 25 (with as many as 71% of those already employed by the company) rather than the under 19s for whom they were originally designed.

Indeed, the latest figures show that the apprenticeship numbers among those aged 16-19 were lower than they were in 2010. Part of the issue here is that young people are simply not aware of the opportunities but it’s also partly to do with the fact that apprenticeships still have a bit of an image problem. Some people still view them as old fashioned and bureaucratic, others are worried that employers are using apprenticeships as an opportunity to get access to cheap labour. And let’s face it, Alan Sugar and his real-life apprentices haven’t always been that inspirational either. As a result, students may be unaware of the opportunities altogether or dismissing them based on inaccurate assumptions.

So what can be done to bridge this information gap and encourage greater participation by young people in apprenticeships?

A good first step is improving the careers advice and guidance available about apprenticeship opportunities through schools and colleges. Through its work with careers advisory services on employability, Marshall ACM has found that e-learning can be particularly useful in engaging young people in careers advice and focusing them on their future aspirations.

Most recently, Marshall ACM has designed and developed an e-learning module for schools and colleges to use with their students focused specifically on apprenticeships, providing them with the tools and information they need to make an informed decision about whether an apprenticeship is right for them.

The course encourages students to rethink their assumptions about apprenticeships and dispels some of the myths. At the same time, it helps them navigate through the various options and provides practical advice and information including:

  • What is an apprenticeship?
  • Eligibility and training
  • What benefits can they expect?
  • The process for finding an apprenticeship
  • Tips on the application and interview advice
  • Managing working and learning effectively
  • How to make the most from the experience
  • Where to get additional support and advice

The e-learning approach offers students an unpressured and early opportunity to explore and reflect on all their options. This can take place whilst they are still studying rather than at a face-to-face interview with a career advisor when studies are coming to an end. And then as their circumstances change and the e-learning is updated, students can return to their “e-career advisor “for a fresh view on their next direction. A good quality e-learning course could also help to bolster the Apprenticeships image and give this career choice more credibility.

With youth unemployment at over one million, apprenticeships clearly have the potential to make a difference. But more needs to be done to increase awareness among 16-19 year olds and generate excitement and interest in the benefits and experiences that they have to offer.

For more information about the apprenticeship e-learning course, visit