More than a third (36%) of parents don’t know what an apprenticeship is, signalling a wider awareness problem which is impacting career choices and creating a skills gaps in key industries. 

With a lack of knowledge among parents, it’s unsurprising that the majority (68%) of young people don’t know either, despite being at the age that they will start to make decisions about the direction of their career. 

The new research, by ABM UK, a leading facilities management solutions provider, calls for more support to be given to parents to equip them with the right knowledge and information that can be passed onto their children. 

ABM UK Director Adam Baker commented: “We were shocked to find a genuine lack of knowledge of apprenticeships amongst parents, and that many still consider them to be a last resort for children who fail their exams. It shows a need for a more unified approach and a better way of communicating, especially because Mum and Dad are in the driving seat when it comes to career choices.

“The purpose of our research isn’t to finger point, it’s to help parents, and other influencers. It’s vital we give parents and schools more informationand empower them to show children all the options open to them, to understand that there are different paths to consider and apprenticeships shouldn’t be pigeon-holed or disregarded from the conversation.”

When asked who or what influences these decisions, Mum and Dad together were number one (66%), followed by teachers and school (41%), the lessons children enjoy (31%) and then friends (14%).  

Of those parents who knew what an apprenticeship was, just 14 per cent considered it to be a good option, while three times as many parents (42%) said they wanted their children to attend university, despite crippling tuition fees and long-term debt prospects. 

The top reasons given for not encouraging their child to undertake 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%).

This 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. 

ABM UK Director Adam Baker continued:“It isn’t just down to parents, key industries also have a role to play. When a young person is set to choose a university, there’s a huge amount of support from schools, parents and educational bodies such as UCAS. We need similar representation for apprenticeships and technical careers to ensure young people in the UK don’t miss out on enriching, lucrative and credible career options.”

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The engineering and facilities management industries are particularly disadvantaged by the awareness gap; 60 per cent of young people said that they were unlikely to even consider working in engineering or facilities management, with over a third (39%) saying that they wouldn’t consider working in this area because they didn’t know anything about it. When asked,just a quarter of parents said they would encourage their children to consider careers in these areas. 

ABM UK commissioned the research as part of its ongoing commitment to attract new talent to the engineering and facilities management industry. In January this year it welcomed 36 West London schoolchildren into the pilot of its first-ever Junior Engineering Engagement Programme (J.E.E.P). 

J.E.E.P. has been an outstanding success and plans are in place to extend it to further schools from September 2018. The move recognised that, despite government initiatives like the Apprenticeship Levy and the introduction of T-levels, businesses have a responsibility to safeguard the future, too. 

Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management CEO Linda Hausmanis said: “We welcome this important research by ABM UK and the excellent J.E.E.P. initiative. The facilities and workplace management industry is currently experiencing a serious skills gap preventing it from reaching its full economic potential. This is a diverse industry with relatively low barriers to entry and yet excellent prospects, supported by a career pathway from entry to executive level.”

“The awareness gap to potential opportunities highlighted by this research evidences a long-suspected need for concerted, early intervention to promote facilities management as a career of choice and its technical education route of entry. IWFM has recently partnered with the Department for Work and Pensionsto that end and is seeking further opportunities for collaboration on this important matter to identify and encourage the next generation of facilities management professionals.”

The research follows news of the T levels programme and the Apprentice Levy – which aim to present young people with more choices in educational pathways.

However, at the same time reports from the UK government show a decline in new apprentices for March 2018, which are down 28 per cent compared to the same period a year ago. 

ABM UK Director Adam Baker continued: “Our programme aims to actively recruit new talent into the industry – it’s time to shake off the view that technical careers are about oily rags and no prospects. In reality recruits in this sector are in such high demand that graduate apprentices are earning between £26,000 and £30,000 just a year after qualifying – usually before they’re 20 years old – and they have no debt.  

“This is an issue we need to tackle now. We know that business leaders across the industry acknowledge that shortages of skilled staff will impact the success of their business, making it clear that filling the knowledge gap doesn’t solely sit with the government or parents. It’s everyone’s responsibility – including industry bodies and commercial enterprises – to collaborate in fixing the problem.”

In her role as an advocate of ABM UK’s J.E.E.P programme, Stemettes co-founder and CEO Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon was encouraged by some of the findings, saying:“The report told us that just 16 per cent of young people considered technical roles to be ‘for boys’, but we know that 89 per cent of the UK’s current engineering workforce is male. That means that for 84 per cent of young people, a gender barrier has been crossed and that engineering and facilities management is well positioned to set the standard for better balance in the future. To make this happen we need to leverage the influence that parents and teachers have by giving them the right information.

“University is often publicised as the ‘only’ route but this is not true. Apprenticeships are a fantastic viable alternative, which allows young people to earn while they learn and then, often before they are 20 years of age, have debt-free foundations from which to build a solid, well-paid career. For many, this is the perfect route to a fulfilling and successful career - not enough people know about the breadth and availability of apprenticeships."

ABM UK has already collaborated with suppliers and clients who see the value in taking action, and the company will be looking at competitors for their involvement as the initiative develops throughout 2018, the Year of The Engineer. 

One of ABM UK's current employees, 24-year-old Marissa Francis, is testament to the benefits that choosing an apprenticeship and a career in the facilities management industry can bring. Francis, who won an industry-leading 'Apprentice of the Year' award in 2017; is earning in excess of £26,000 per year; and importantly earned while she was learning her trade at ABM UK and has no university debt, said "I am so grateful to ABM UK for allowing us to be part of something so exciting and really believe these young people will massively benefit from this amazing opportunity."

Marissa Francis, HVAC Improver and graduate apprentice at ABM UK, commented: "After leaving college I was unsure what I wanted to do – there just wasn't much, if any, careers guidance available. There was also a lot of pressure to go to university; but I wanted to get hands-on experience, to learn essential skills in practice rather than in theory, and to start earning as soon as possible. I applied for and was eventually accepted on to ABM UK’s apprenticeship programme, which gave me the opportunity to earn while I was learning. For me, it was a perfect fit, and I wish I had known about this kind of opportunity much earlier, particularly when I was at school."

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