More help needed to encourage poorer students into apprenticeships

Students from poorer backgrounds are being discouraged from taking up apprenticeships, a new report from education charity, Teach First, has revealed.

The body – using data from the Department for Education, found that that across every English region, young people from low income backgrounds in receipt of free schools meals were less likely than their wealthier counterparts to become an apprentice.

Its joint report with PA Consulting Group – set to be published in September – explains that despite a government vow to create three million more apprenticeships by 2020, a distinct lack of information and financial barriers may continue to put low income pupils from taking up the route.

The final ‘Progression Report’ urges the government to build on its ‘Find an Apprenticeship’ website by developing a nationwide, UCAS-style service for young people.

This should help make choices clearer by outlining all the opportunities and linking them directly to the employer’s application process.

The report will also call on the Low Pay Commission to invest in researching whether perceptions of low pay and a lack of additional financial support are putting disadvantaged young people off applying for apprenticeships.

Young people often perceive an apprenticeship to be a low-wage option due to the headline figure of the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage of just £3.30 an hour, it found. In reality, the average salary is closer to £6 an hour with salary progression rapid after three or six months as skills develop.

Prospective apprenticeships also miss out on financial support available to those in full time education or training.

James Westhead, executive director of external relations at Teach First, said: “As a country we rapidly need to get over this completely false idea that all apprenticeships are second rate. Apprenticeships can offer an important route for young people to get into careers and industries with strong earning potential, but a combination of poor attitudes, low awareness and lack of financial support means disadvantaged young people are losing out across the country.”