Mark Creighton, the former Dentsu Aegis Network chief operating officer, will become CEO of AVADO Learning

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An Apprenticeship is a career route that has been overlooked for too long. This National Apprenticeship Week we had a fantastic opportunity to re-energise, redefine and relaunch it for students, parents, teachers and applicants. In today’s economy, it has never had more value. Carrying with it a wealth of benefits - apprenticeships are more than a non-traditional route to a career, they’re arguably the defining route of our age.

Many misunderstandings have historically surrounded apprenticeships - from the idea that they are only available in certain industries, to the worry that they are not a reliable route to a successful career.

Research conducted by Avado shows that these misconceptions are finally falling away. In celebration of National Apprenticeship Week this year, Avado surveyed over one thousand UK parents and managers to investigate views on apprenticeships, upskilling and education. The results were overwhelming.

The survey revealed that 68 % of parents said they believed apprenticeships were a good career option, along with 71 % of managers who valued these and other non-traditional qualifications in those they employ. Meanwhile, a massive 68 % of managers and 76 % of parents believe a university degree is not vital to employability. This proves that there has been a fundamental change in mindsets where it comes to the viability of the apprenticeship journey.

One in four parents surveyed said their child had considered an apprenticeship - but there’s still work to do; 51 % of those surveyed told us their child’s school didn’t offer advice on apprenticeships (compared to 46% who were not advised on university placements). This shows no improvement in similar research we conducted in 2017, despite millions of pounds of government investment in informing schools across the country.

It appears that whilst parents, students, and employers are aware of the value of apprenticeships, schools are lagging. Without the proper education around all the options available, young people cannot hope to make informed choices about their futures, and we will continue to see a shortfall in apprentices - which, as this research shows, is not what employers and the UK economy need.

The research also highlights the importance of apprenticeships for improving diversity in UK businesses - 44 % of UK managers felt they were the most effective way to improve diversity in their organisation, ahead of either recruitment strategies or updated policies. Universities, especially our most prestigious institutions, have struggled to bring in students from diverse backgrounds - perhaps in part due to the enormous cost of fees.

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Apprenticeships, which offer the opportunity to be paid while you learn, have been proven time and time again to appeal to those from a wider range of backgrounds, thus improving diversity at all levels of a business. For disadvantaged young people, an increase in funding and understanding can only be a good thing - but schools must first change the way they talk to their students about careers and further education.

With this support from schools, plus the increasing enthusiasm from parents and managers, apprenticeships could be the definitive change to the working world this year. Staff retention amongst businesses who offer apprenticeships is higher, as these programmes often instil a great sense of loyalty in those they train.

All these issues then feed into the larger UK productivity crisis, which apprenticeships could also go a long way to resolving. It will take a great deal more work and willpower in our educational establishments, but by investing in non-traditional educational routes, I am convinced we can resolve many of the most pressing issues facing young people and the UK economy today.

Mark Creighton, CEO, AVADO Learning

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