Emma Finamore, Editor, AllAboutSchoolLeavers.co.uk

Recent research indicates that parents’ views on apprenticeships are improving: good news for many people working in the early careers market. A study from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) suggests that over half of UK parents believe an apprenticeship provides a better chance of getting a good job than going to university.

The CMI surveyed of over 1,000 parents of 11 to 18-year-olds, and also found that 57% of parents think that apprenticeships offer a better chance of getting a good job, and that the majority of parents (52%) cite the high costs of university education as a major factor in their preference for apprenticeships.

Nearly half (49%) would encourage their child to start an apprenticeship rather than apply for university.

Meanwhile, another recent study – published in July – found that attitudes towards university could be changing too. Barclays Apprenticeships found that in Wales specifically, 50% of students and graduates who had completed their degrees in the last five years say they regret their decision to go to university.

Over 60% of graduates say they do not need a degree to do their current job.

The study also revealed that while young people in Wales felt under pressure to go to university – both from parents and teachers – half of parents (of students and graduates) said they would not have been disappointed if their child hadn’t gone to university and instead considered other routes.

In fact, 67% said they would actually encourage their child to do an apprenticeship over a university degree.

Barclays also found that parents are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about higher education with 62% of those polled now aware of Degree Apprenticeships, compared to just 10% in 2016.

This seems to correlate with increasingly impressive, high-end apprenticeship programmes being offered, in well-regarded professions. Architecture – for example – is now accessible via apprenticeships. The first group of architectural apprentices will start at leading practices such as AHMM, Hawkins\Brown and PRP in September, as a major new sector initiative gets underway.

The postgraduate teaching apprenticeship is about to open another route into teaching too: a school-led initial teacher training (ITT) route that combines paid work with on- and off-the-job training, qualifications, and progression. It allows candidates to train to become qualified teachers, and will be available to trainees starting in September.

But despite all these promising signs, another study seems to tell a totally different story.

As reported by FE News just this week, more new research claims that over a third – 36% – of parents don’t even know what an apprenticeship is.

That’s despite them being the biggest influence on their children’s career decisions. When asked who or what influences these choices, children taking part in the research said that their parents were the number one factor (66%), followed by teachers and school (41%), the lessons children enjoy (31%) and then their friends (14%).

The research was independently commissioned by ABM UK, which surveyed 2,000 British parents of children aged 11 to 16 and 2,000 young people aged 11 to 16.

Of those parents who knew what an apprenticeship was, just 14% considered it to be a good option, again – at odds with the CMI study that said “57% of parents think that apprenticeships offer a better chance of getting a good job”.

The ABM UK study found that three times as many parents (42%) said they wanted their children to attend university than those who thought apprenticeships were a good idea, despite crippling tuition fees and long-term debt prospects.

The top reasons parents surveyed gave for not encouraging their child to do an apprenticeship were that they were thought to be poorly paid (43%), because they see it as a last resort for those who fail their exams (37%), and a perception that apprenticeships don’t lead to successful careers (17%).

Real-life statistics seem to support the less positive outlook reported by these various studies...at least at first glance. Earlier this month, Personnel Today reported that the latest figures published by the government (up to July) show there were 290,500 apprenticeship starts for the first three quarters of the 2017-18 academic year, compared with 440,300 and 384,500 reported at this time in 2016-17 and 2015-16, a decrease of 34% and 24.5% respectively.

Between May 2010 and April 2018 there were 3,787,600 starts according to the figures, which will be adjusted when final data for the year is published in November.

But – and again we run into trouble with numbers – the 2017-18 statistics could be misleading as they might not take into account the big increase in apprenticeship starts during the autumn months: Department for Education figures show that more than 60,000 apprenticeships began in September 2017 and more than 40,000 in October.

Trying to gauge something as complex – and human – as feelings and opinions, using cold numbers and statistics is always going to be difficult, impossible even, while George Canning famously said: “I can prove anything by statistics…except the truth.” So, maybe all these studies, reports and papers are just red herrings.

One thing is for certain though: we shouldn’t rest on our laurels when it comes to parents and apprenticeships. The battle is definitely not over yet.

Emma Finamore, Editor, AllAboutSchoolLeavers.co.uk

Copyright © 2018 FE News

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