The beginning of September brings parents across the country busily preparing for their children to go back to school. However, aside from the new shoes and freshly ironed uniforms, some may not be as prepared as they thought. This new academic year brings a big change for all those students aged 16 and under, as the participation age raises from 16 to 17 years old, meaning young people can no longer opt out of education or training if they wish, post-GCSE. To coincide with this news, Kaplan has released research showing that over one quarter of parents are actually not aware of the change and 1 in 5 parents who even have children aged 16, the first cohort to be directly affected, didn't know either.
I find it worrying that some parents aren't aware of this change to how young people will be educated and trained. If parents – who we know are often the main source of support and guidance for their children - aren't aware of the options their children have, they won't be well placed to help their youngsters make the right decision for themselves. Raising the participation age is not just about staying on at school, it is a young person staying in education or training in some form, so this might be work-based learning, an Apprenticeship or another vocational route.
We also found out that the majority of parents (58%) believe that higher education still offers the best route to success for their child, compared to only 32% who think an Apprenticeship route could be best, despite the Government's focus on normalising the vocational route to entering the professions. With parents as the main influencers for young people, we run the risk of this message being carried over to the next generation.
Earlier in the summer, the gap in parental knowledge was also highlighted by recent research from the Association of Accounting Technicians, the professional body for the Accounting Apprenticeship (AAT), which found that nearly two thirds (63%) of parents do not understand Apprenticeships enough to explain them to their child and 81% of parents are unaware that a Higher Apprenticeship is equivalent to the first year of a university-level qualification while providing essential work experience tailored to a specific job role, an area that is often a weakness of university graduates.
The participation age has not been raised since 1972 and this historic change aims to give young people the opportunity to develop the skills that they need for adult life and to help the UK meet the current shortage in skilled workers. Whilst the participation age in education or training has changed, there are a variety of options for young people to meet the new requirement including full time study in a school, college or with a training provider; full time work or volunteering combined with part-time education Apprenticeships.
Kaplan is encouraging teachers, parents, colleges and training providers to provide clear information to students and school leavers about the different options available to them. Kaplan offers a free recruitment service designed to help young people find a local Apprenticeship job, using strong links with employers to help create Apprenticeship employment opportunities for young people leaving school.
We are delighted to have helped over 850 young people find an Apprenticeship job in the last four years. As a provider and investor in young people, we are passionate about continuing to create more Apprenticeship jobs through encouraging employers to take on an Apprentice to work within their organisation. At a time when youth unemployment figures are on the increase, university fees are growing and job opportunities are limited, we are delighted to be able to support young people to find a job and enhance their skills through our Apprenticeship programmes.
Kathy Rushton is head of Apprenticeships at Kaplan, the training provider
Students and teachers can take a look and apply for our latest Apprenticeship jobs at www.kaplanapprenticeships.co.uk