More work needed to promote apprenticeships

A report into the popularity and awareness of apprenticeships has painted a challenging picture for those promoting vocational training, particularly among smaller businesses. The report, ‘The Interserve Society Report: Apprenticeships: the path to success”, showed that only seven per cent of young people polled plan to do an apprenticeship, with 72 per cent planning on going to university or college.

From the parental side, only 27 per cent of the parents surveyed think that an apprenticeship would be most useful for their children in pursuing a future career, versus 42 per cent who believe a university degree is the best option. Tellingly, 75% of parents said they had never heard of degree level apprenticeships, which may go some way to explaining the low level of parental enthusiasm for apprenticeships.

The report’s authors are clear on the need for greater education and awareness of how young people can benefit from alternative routes to work, saying, “Indeed, more needs to be done to show that apprenticeships offer routes into all professions and can deliver the high level, career orientated qualifications that resonate with parents.”

The report calls for the launch of a campaign “similar in scale to that which promoted university attendance – but targeted at apprenticeships – especially in the South where they have the biggest image problem.”

From the business side, there is a significant lack of awareness among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of the different types of apprenticeship schemes available, with only 32 per cent saying they had heard of a Higher or Degree level apprenticeship. However, approximately half (46 per cent) of large companies had heard of these types of apprenticeship.

But according to the report, of those SMEs that were aware of apprentices, the level of enthusiasm was high: “When asked which recruits tended to be the most productive, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) tended to rate apprentices most highly, with over a third (37%) of SME respondents saying that they are the most productive of all their new recruits, compared to large companies who said that university graduates were the most productive recruits in their business (51%).”

Adrian Ringrose, Interserve’s chief executive, said, “This report provides a snapshot of attitudes and perceptions towards apprenticeships among young people, parents and employers at a time when the forthcoming Apprenticeship Levy has firmly pushed the topic onto the business agenda. However, as the report shows, much more needs to be done to change perceptions and raise awareness of apprenticeship schemes.

“It is evident that apprenticeships suffer from an image problem and lack the prestige assigned to university education. Business, government and educators must all work together to better inform parents and young people about apprenticeships, in order to ensure that these schemes can become a driving force for skills and sustainable careers.”


London employers least enthusiastic

There are clear regional differences that exist in the perceptions of apprenticeships. The report shows that only 17% of London-based employers see apprentices as their ideal recruit – significantly less than the other regions, especially the Midlands (45%) and Scotland (43%), “where employers see apprentices as the most productive new recruits, ahead of school leavers and university graduates.

A regional disparity is also evident in terms of the skills valued by businesses in different parts of the country with just 7% of London-based businesses valuing qualifications from work-based learning, such as apprenticeships, when looking for new recruits – less than every other region surveyed.