Skills Minister, Nick Boles has this week suggested that young people are increasingly pursuing apprenticeships as an ‘unintended consequence’ of the rise in university tuition fees. However, a report from the Commons Education Committee points to an overall decrease in the number of apprenticeships from 2010 to 2014.
Boles admits that the UK’s apprenticeship schemes ‘lag behind’ other countries, partly due to the ‘outdated attitudes’ of parents and teachers. He states that: ‘You can now become an apprentice lawyer, an apprentice accountant, or an apprentice journalist’ but adds that perceptions are still slow to change.
James Moore, writing for The Independent, questions the extent of high quality ‘gold standard’ apprenticeships. ‘Lower down the scale there are certain employers that would be only too happy to use calling someone an apprentice as an excuse to get their hands on a stack of government cash – while at the same time paying their younger staff less than the minimum wage.’
Since 2012 government investment in apprenticeships has risen by £1.6bn. Allison Fuller, Professor of Vocational Education and Work at the Institute of Education, commented to the BBC that the number of 16 – 19 years olds taking up apprenticeships is still low and ‘it remains a challenge to increase it’.
A recent survey by notgoingtouni.co.uk showed that people completing apprenticeships earn £310 more per month than graduates in their first jobs. ‘According to the poll, only 8% of the respondents who completed an apprenticeship wished they had undertaken a degree, whilst 33% of those who had graduated from university wished they’d embarked on an apprenticeship’, reports Onrec.
Moore writes that: ‘work also needs to be done to counter the snobbery in Britain for anything deemed “vocational”, and it wouldn’t hurt to set an example from the top.’ He argues that: ‘If the establishment wants British parents and school leavers to buy into apprenticeships, it wouldn’t hurt to start recruiting from among the ranks of people who have completed one’.
The week marks National Apprenticeship Week.