Despite apprenticeships being described as “the best career route in the world”, they are being detrimentally affected by government changes to the system and poor careers advice at school.
New research out today shows that the clear majority (98%) of apprentices are happy in their jobs – citing benefits such as good pay and no student debt, fulfilling work, globally-recognised qualifications and career progression.
The research was carried out with 1,200 apprentices, through the Industry Apprentice Council – made up of apprentices from the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector and supported by national engineering skills body, Semta. The IAC is described as the UK’s industry voice for apprentices and its members are regularly invited to address MPs, peers and leaders in education and industry.
Chief executive of Semta Group, Ann Watson explained: “As we finalise new standards for apprenticeships, it is important that ministers listen to apprentices and prevent the collapse of an extremely successful system.
“We are already facing an uphill battle with poor careers advice in schools. We need to make apprenticeships more attractive not less to our young people and employers, particularly the SMEs, at a time when we need all the engineers we can get and the skills gap is growing – we need nearly two million more engineers and technical staff by 2025.”
The majority (92%) of the apprentices surveyed oppose the removal of mandatory qualifications by the Department for Education, with warnings that this risks creating a two-tier system.
Those studying the new T-Levels will achieve a recognised formal qualification, while apprentices may not – as qualifications aren’t mandatory in the new apprenticeship standards.
The removal of mandated qualifications and the focus on the End Point Assessment as the primary measure of an apprentice’s achievement is causing a lot of unease, according to IAC member and toolmaker at Ford Motor Company, John Coombes.
Careers advice was highly criticised by the apprentices. Only 22% received good or very good advice from schools, with 5% receiving no advice and nearly 40% saying their advice was bad or very bad.
The research also highlighted a significant gender bias in careers advice, with 85% of female apprentices saying their school or college had put higher education as the number one option for school leavers, compared to just 77% for male apprentices.
Similarly, fewer young women were given information about apprenticeships compared to young men – 35% against 41%.
Philippa Dressler-Pearson, IAC member and advanced technical engineering apprentice at Southco Manufacturing, said: “There’s a massive skills shortage of engineers and technical staff in the UK, but you don’t hear anything about this in schools. Teachers don’t have enough information about apprenticeships, why they are important and what they offer.”
The apprentices have made several recommendations for government and schools. They say no school should be awarded outstanding by OFSTED unless they deliver quality careers advice on apprenticeships and that this advice should be a statutory requirement in all schools. They also want formal qualifications included in apprenticeship standards wherever employers recommend them.