Despite the fact that apprenticeships are beginning to gain more respect in the eyes of employers, we at Barclays are conscious that there are still a number of young people who feel that university may not be the right path for them and are struggling because they are not being provided with enough information on the alternative options available.

Going to university to study for a degree will always be popular, however many young people and their parents aren’t aware of the benefits alternative routes, such as apprenticeships, can offer and often see them as a back-up option, but this is simply not the case anymore. Aside from a wage from day one and on the job training, young people can gain a qualification, boost their confidence in the work place and jumpstart their career - without the debt. Traineeships and apprenticeships are just two of the routes that provide practical help to young people, so that they gain work ready skills and have the best chance to successfully transition into work.

The importance of educating parents has never been clearer, as our research has revealed that it is parents, in particular, who hold a strong prejudice against university alternatives - and this is a major barrier to students starting apprenticeships. We surveyed 1,000 parents and found that the vast majority believe university is the best route for their child (65%), a view that becomes particularly prevalent if they have attended university themselves - rising to 80%.

It might not feel like it to many parents, but they are in fact far and away the most important influencer in their child’s decision when it comes to further education. Out of the 1,000 students we surveyed, 43% cited their parents as the most key influencer when it comes to discussing future routes, compared to careers advisors (6%) and teachers (12%). Despite this, parents actually underestimated their own influence in this area, with only 36% thinking they were most responsible for their children’s decisions, and perceived careers advisors to be much more influential on their children’s choices than they actually were (31%).

With parents having such a sway on their children’s future it is concerning that almost 80% of university students had never spoken to their parents about apprenticeships as a viable career route, and more than half (57%) worry that they didn’t consider all options available to them before choosing university.

This could be because parents are not aware of the wide variety of apprenticeships available to young people today, with 51% admitting they know very little to nothing about apprenticeships and only 8% confident in their understanding. Old misconceptions around apprenticeships being exclusive to trades such as plumbing and construction are still prevalent with parents, with 37% saying they’re unaware of roles available outside these industries. However, it is good to note that there is increasing awareness of opportunities in areas such as finance (37% awareness) and management (32% awareness) as well.

If university is the right thing for you then that’s fantastic, but for students who do feel that perhaps university will not bring out the best in them it is really worth considering an apprenticeship. Not least because it can really help those with little or no experience become ready for the world of work, and is designed to build confidence, experience and skills. At Barclays, this is not just an interim assignment; we give our apprentices a permanent role and career pathway. We offer a range of programmes including Traineeships, Foundation Apprenticeships and Higher Apprenticeships and to date, Barclays has hired 2,600 apprentices, recruiting purely on potential and work experience for a scheme tailored by apprentices for apprentices.

The Barclays Degree Apprenticeship Programme, which allows young people to earn a 100% funded degree on top of their paid apprenticeship, is just one of many apprenticeship opportunities available to young people. Currently only a sixth of parents have heard of Degree Apprenticeships despite them offering a balance between university qualifications and entering the world of work.

More needs to be done to ensure that our young people are given the full picture on the routes available to them – and, it’s not just up to schools and educators to provide this information, it important for parents to be clued in too. After all, they are the key influencer in their child’s life. 

Mike Thompson, Head of Apprenticeships at Barclays and member of the Prime Ministers’ new Apprenticeship Delivery Board

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