The rise of apprenticeships

The rise of apprenticeships

Posted by Liam McNally |  10th April 2017

There was a time when the motivation for going to school revolved around going to university. The idea was that you’d leave school, go to uni, get your degree and make a smooth transition to a lucrative career path. Simple as that.

However, this is no longer the case. It now appears that more young people are choosing apprenticeships over traditional academic routes. An apprenticeship is a work-based scheme designed to train young people in a profession and enable them to earn whilst they learn.

Why is this happening?

Work based skills go down, student debts go up

About 25 years ago, the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 transformed the UK’s polytechnics into universities. Previously, polytechnics had taken a more career based approach to education than ‘old’ universities, but with their new found university status, this began to change in favour of more academic courses.

As sixth forms aimed to push most or all of their students into higher education, the university system was flooded with entrants of all abilities. With so many people going to university, the amount of people with degrees increased, which sounds great, but the truth is that many of these students were lacking in practical, career based skills when they graduated.

Then, student grants were abolished, to be replaced by student loans, and tuition fees were introduced. In recent years, the cost of going to university has soared and is now very expensive. Parents are meant to help bear the cost, which can put a huge financial strain on families. All too often, students are finding themselves in dire financial straits, which can have serious physical and emotional impacts.

Apprenticeships: an ‘earn while you learn’ alternative

The above scenario is one of the reasons why the number of apprenticeships is currently rising. An apprenticeship is an alternative route onto the career ladder for young people who may not want to go to university. Crucially, an apprenticeship also avoids incurring the enormous debts that so many students and graduates are now saddled with.

So, if you don't need to, why go to university only to come out when you’re 21 with around £40,000 worth of debt? Why not choose an apprenticeship where, by the time you’re 21, you could have gained a qualification, have work experience, understand the industry you’re working in AND be earning a decent pay check every month?

Government support and the apprenticeship levy

Increasing support from the Government is also boosting awareness and take up of apprenticeships. Over the last few years, the Government has worked hard to promote work based schemes through extensive TV and online advertising campaigns which explain the benefits of apprenticeships and encourage more companies and young people to get involved.

You may have heard of the Government’s plans to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 and of the new apprenticeship levy, which is expected to raise around £3 billion of funding a year to be reinvested into apprenticeships. You can read about the levy here. 

Parents’ perceptions are changing

Parents have a huge influence on their children’s educational choices and their perceptions of apprenticeships have undergone a sea change. Just 4 years ago, a survey by the Association of Accounting Technicians found that 63% of parents didn’t understand apprenticeships well enough to discuss them with their children.

Fast forward to 2016 when an NCFE poll revealed that 68% of parents now think apprenticeships are an excellent way for their children to continue in education whilst working at the same time. Similarly, 62% now believe that university doesn’t suit everyone and 41% don’t think a degree holds the same value as it did in the past.

The NCFE survey also found that parents are now seeing the true value of apprenticeships and work based training. 47% said they’d be pleased if their child embarked on a vocational trade and 93% didn’t believe an apprenticeship would slow their child’s progress in their chosen career. Just 9% said they believe apprenticeships lead to low paid, low skilled jobs.

Looking at these statistics, we can see why apprenticeships are becoming more popular across the nation. They’re providing the next generation of young people with the skills and qualifications they need to thrive in their careers.

Over the next few years, we’re going to see a lot more apprentices in the UK’s workplaces. And with more apprenticeships becoming available than ever before, maybe the future of our children’s motivation in going to school lies in securing an apprenticeship rather than a degree.