From education to employment

Changing perceptions: Apprenticeships are no longer for poor, underachieving young people

Ben Rowland, co-founder of Arch Apprentices

Apprenticeships have undergone an incredible change in recent years as their focus has shifted from being primarily blue‐collar professions, such as construction or engineering, to business and head office functions. Once thought of as an alternative to University for students who “couldn’t get the grades”, apprenticeships are becoming a viable career option for our brightest young people – as well as those already in work.

Since 2012, University fees have skyrocketed leaving young graduates with tens of thousands pounds worth of debt – sometimes before they’ve even left their parent’s home. This change in funding meant that many young people began to look for alternatives for further training, which included apprenticeships.

However, it is proving difficult to change people’s perceptions on what an apprenticeship is and, most importantly, who they are for. When surveyed, 51% of people admitted that apprenticeships are either for manual jobs or are mainly for school leavers who didn’t make the requisite grades for University. Of these, 14% agreed that apprenticeships are for school leavers who can’t afford to go to University.

24% of men and women claim that apprenticeships are for those who are lazy and don’t want to study, or for those school leavers who can’t decide what to study at University. Yet, apprenticeships require a lot of commitment and apprentices are still required to study throughout the duration. The only difference is that apprentices are studying a particular occupation opposed to a subject.

The positive picture that I recognise is not being painted of our young people wishing to undertake an apprenticeship. From my experience as Co‐founder of Arch Apprentices, I have come across incredibly bright, enthusiastic young people who see University as a pathway to a lifelong debt and apprenticeships as a route to the top.

That’s not to say that University does not have its merits. Many young people need the opportunity to expand their horizons, live away from home for the first time in a safe environment and enjoy studying at a higher academic level. However, University is not for everyone and even those who have become experts in their subject through University are now looking to become experts in their jobs through apprenticeships.

Therefore, the training they receive is tailored for the job, making it more specialised than a University degree. If anything, I would advise young people who do not yet know what career they want to go to University, where they can learn broadly about a topic and develop their academic abilities whilst making their mind up.

For those who have a career in mind, such as marketing, HR, finance or Data, I would point them in the direction of an apprenticeship in these fields, where they will learn the key skills required to do the actual job and how it applies to business. For occupations like these, practical application of those skills is integral for understanding its value to an organisation and we find that this form of onthe‐job training is more effective at making learning stick and keeping young people engaged.

Furthermore, the introduction of new apprenticeship rules and a government‐led push to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020, has opened the doors for more people to train via an apprenticeship. For example, the implementation of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017 has meant that people of all ages can join an apprenticeship programme meaning that they are no longer purely for young people. This means that it is even more imperative to change the perception of apprenticeships in order to encourage people further on in their careers to consider applying.

Since these changes, Arch Apprentices has seen a major shift in the profile of an apprentice. Once a young person of between 17‐19 years old who had good grades but didn’t think University was the path for them, the apprentices of today are primarily already working in a business and have been enrolled into an apprenticeship programme as a mechanism to use a company’s levy whilst upskilling and developing their existing staff.

As such, an apprentice no longer means a poor, underachieving young person who cannot get the grades. It means a bright young person who knows the career they want. It’s someone who doesn’t want the debt of University and knows they can get just as good a career and experience by studying an apprenticeship – whilst earning a living! It means an individual who seeks the chance to improve and develop themselves. It’s absolutely everyone and anyone who wants to succeed in a rewarding career.

Ben Rowland, Co-Founder of Arch Apprentices

*Research was carried out for Arch Apprentices by Opinion Matters between 19/07/2018 and 25/07/2018 amongst a panel resulting in 1,023 who have just sat (or within the last two years) their A-Level exams respondents. All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Opinion Matters is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).

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