Apprentices from across the UK gathered at the London Film Museum on London's South Bank to urge the government to address the stigma surrounding apprenticeships and focus on raising the profile of courses in schools.
The debate, attended by the minister for skills and enterprise Matthew Hancock and chaired by two Industry Apprentice Council (IAC) members and apprentices, Lizzie Moffatt from Vauxhall Motors and BAE System’s Andy Fowler, is part of the Voice of Apprenticeships conference, a flagship event for National Apprentice Week.
During the debate, several apprentices commented that the lack of knowledge of schemes from parents, teachers and career advisors was a barrier for many individuals. One apprentice said:
“I didn’t get pushed; I had to find out for myself.”
The stigma surrounding apprenticeships was also highlighted, with schools and parents focusing on academia and a drive towards university. One woman said when attending sixth form, one afternoon a week was dedicated to filling out UCAS forms, but no time was allowed for seeking alternative career paths. Similarly, external companies rarely hold events at schools or career fairs to advertise apprenticeship programs.
Ben Pike, CEO of QA Training, sponsors of The Apprentice Debate, said: “We are always to trying to touch base with schools to promote our programmes but have been turned down on more than one occasion.”
The debate revealed schools focus too much on working towards destination data, showing students getting into university rather than on the right career path. Students also called for a regulation of course accreditation with 94% of people in an IAC study requesting a graduation.
The discussion provoked comment on the continuing lack of female apprentices in the fields of IT and engineering, as well as, a call for employers and course providers to target job seekers who are over the age of 25.
Matthew Hancock, minister for skills and enterprise, said: “We are determined to support and drive apprenticeships into a place in our culture. We have a vision and this is that it becomes the new norm that when you leave school you have a choice either to go to university or to go into an apprenticeship. Our job in government shouldn’t be to target one more than the other.
“The problem at the moment isn’t the amount of government funding or the number of applicants, instead it is a need or employers to come to the table to collaborate and make sure that we get as many projects as possible.
“We have seen that if a company takes on one apprentice then they tend to take on more because they see the value of the programme. ”
QA Apprentices created a hashtag on Twitter for all the young apprentices to share why they like their apprenticeship: