Belief that apprenticeships are inferior is holding people back

Young people are still under the impression that apprenticeships are a second-rate option, a misconception that is a barrier to attracting the best candidates.

That is the message emerging from the results of a survey of apprentices conducted by global infrastructure services firm AECOM.


Lack of awareness and availability

One in three apprentices who responded to the survey said this was the case, and almost a quarter (23 per cent) said not enough information in schools about the advantages of apprenticeships is the biggest barrier.

Some 32 per cent said they thought apprenticeships were inferior to a degree, while a lack of availability of courses was cited as the main obstacle for just over one fifth (21 per cent) of respondents.

A lack of awareness about what taking on an apprenticeship involves was responsible for putting off potential candidates, according to 28 per cent of survey respondents.


Other key findings include:

  • More than half (52 per cent) chose an apprenticeship over a university degree
  • 14 per cent did not even consider a degree as a feasible option because of high tuition fees
  • 40 per cent said they were put off a university degree because they wanted to earn money while studying
  • 23 per cent opted against a degree because they felt there was no guarantee of a job at the end of the course
  • 25 per cent of students said that if they weren’t an apprentice, they would be in a job that didn’t fit their skills or they were overqualified for
  • 12 per cent said if they hadn’t taken on an apprenticeship, they may not have found a job straight away.

Paul McCormick, managing director – transportation, UK and Ireland and continental Europe at AECOM, said: “I began my career as an apprentice more than three decades ago, so I know first-hand that apprenticeships are a proven, viable route into the infrastructure and built environment sector.


‘Meaningful and rewarding’

“More needs to be done, however, to convince good candidates that apprenticeships offer a meaningful and rewarding career path, including sponsorship for a part-time degree at a later date.

“We employ more than 300 apprentices and plan to hire 150 new apprentices this year – more than ever before. Attracting high-quality candidates is therefore key.”

The survey also found that employers viewing apprentices as cheap labour – and failing to invest in proper training or mentorship – was responsible for some apprenticeships failing. In addition, the findings showed apprenticeships are viewed as crucial to building a skilled workforce in the future, with more than half or respondents (58 per cent) agreeing that this is the case.