From education to employment

A-Level Results Day: Let’s Get Students Talking About Apprenticeships

Kerry Linley, STEM ambassador and CEO of Rubitek

A-Level Results Day is upon us, which means thousands of students nationwide will be nervously waiting to find out their final grades. Then begins the start of the rest of their lives, with some heading into work and others choosing to remain in education. Some, however, will opt to work and train in tandem, and that’s where apprenticeships come in.

Google A-Level Results Day and you will be served with a whole host of articles aimed to impart advice to nervous students. Almost all discuss what to expect should you end up navigating the clearing process, seemingly assuming the reader is off to university, the inevitable next step after finishing A-Levels.

Less representation for apprenticeships

There’s less representation, however, of students who have chosen a different route, be that into full-time work or an apprenticeship. Some students simply don’t wish to go to university – they would rather be earning money than racking up student debt. They would rather train, learn and develop their skills in a practical, hands-on way than sit in a lecture hall, as this fits in much better with their unique learning style. For some, the move to university would not suit their family circumstances. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the university experience and some may feel it isn’t quite the romantic idea it used to be.

It could be seen as surprising, therefore, that so much of the dialogue surrounding A-Level Results Day is based on the assumption that university is the natural next step for the nation’s school-leavers. Last year, research conducted by UCAS revealed that students struggle to access information about apprenticeships. How, then, can they make informed decisions about their future when they don’t even have access to the relevant information to thoroughly assess their options?

More about the UCAS study

The study by UCAS also confirmed that there continues to be a stigma surrounding apprenticeships, based on the assumption that they lack the prestige associated with going to university. The UCAS study showed that only 8% of students surveyed associated apprenticeships with leading to a good job, and a mere 4% said that they would associate the word ‘prestigious’ with apprenticeships, compared with 76% who would attach this word to a traditional university degree.

Lack of information

Due to this lack of information, many young people may not even be aware that some higher-level apprenticeships are equivalent to a Bachelors degree. Not to mention apprenticeships can mark the start of an excellent career for a person of school-leaving age.

There is also seemingly a lack of information available to promote a further option, one that could act as the ideal “hybrid” solution for a student torn between doing an apprenticeship and studying at university – a degree apprenticeship. This is where a student can study at university and gain a degree whilst working. Again, it would seem not enough is being done to promote this very exciting career route to school-leavers, all because it differs from the expected, “traditional” route.

It is clear that more needs to be done in order to inform young people of their options, including apprenticeships, without such a heavy emphasis on a traditional university degree as the only route to take. Not only will this work to equip students with the information to make a good choice on what’s right for them, but it will help to finally quash the stigma surrounding apprenticeships and the unfortunate and inaccurate belief that they are somehow inferior to a place at university.

Lets get students talking

We need to get students talking about apprenticeships and to do that we need to start talking about them too. Let’s invite more training providers to give talks at school career days and make it easier for them to do so. This means the onus should also lie with schools and colleges. Schools and colleges already have a legal obligation to talk about apprenticeships with students when discussing their options, but this can mean that the information provided is robotic, unenthusiastic and unengaging for students.

We also need employers going into schools to talk about apprenticeships. Schools are often very eager for greater interaction with employers as this opens doors to their students. As employers, we are very good at bemoaning the school system, and the lack of good candidates, but most of us have never stepped inside a school or given a talk about the different career routes, or about how someone can ‘get a job like mine’, or work in our companies. Students need real life examples that they can both aspire and relate to, and a CEO or Managing Director who started life as an apprentice is exactly that, and will also help to denounce the outdated idea that apprenticeships do not lead to “good”, high-paying jobs.

We need to work together to provide the kind of information on apprenticeships that will really get students excited, and remove the stigma by talking about apprenticeships as what they are – something to be proud of, and an excellent start to a successful and rewarding career.

By Kerry Linley, CEO of Rubitek

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