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Augar Review drives surge in apprenticeship ambitions

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An anticipated clampdown on university admissions has driven nearly a million teens to consider apprenticeships for the first time.

In February of this year, the government issued its response to the Augar Review, announcing that student loans would no longer be available to those who fail their Maths & English GCSEs, in addition to restrictions to access “poor-quality, low-cost” courses.

As a result, interest amongst students is on the decline, just a quarter (25%) have their sights set on going to university, as many (36%) fear they won’t be able to afford tuition fees without a loan. 

Formerly cast off as less valuable than traditional higher education routes, a quarter (23%) of parents would now actively prefer their child to do an apprenticeship, rather than attend university, deterred by reports of teaching standards during the pandemic, and perceptions of university as poor value for money.

Growing sectors

While apprenticeship demand is on the up, there remains a misconception that work-based training only provides a pathway to certain sectors.

Science and technology apprenticeship provider, TIRO, commissioned the study of UK teens and their parents, in a new report, ‘Shaping the science and tech workforce of tomorrow’. A growing number of young people are aspiring to roles in STEM, where they perceive the best earning and development potentials,3 but remain convinced that they’ll need to go to university to secure roles in the field.

Engineering and manufacturing is the most sought after sector for parents when thinking about the industry they’d like their child to work in (25%), but many still mistakenly believe that access to the sector will be determined by a university degree (38%).

Young people are equally enthusiastic about the developing science and technology industries, which have been identified as key growth areas by the current government, as one in three (34%) 11-18 year olds now consider tech as the most exciting career, closely followed by science (28%).

However, misconceptions about entry requirements may deter many from pursuing their aspirations, as 69% of students believe that you have to be extremely academic to work in a science or tech job.

But Charlotte Blant, CEO at TIRO, confirms that these barriers are on the decline:

The perception that a career in science or technology requires straight A grades, or a university degree, is inaccurate and outdated. Working with some of the UK’s leading STEM employers, we’ve seen first hand that the most successful and sought-after candidates are those that demonstrate real passion for the sector, and have the ability to learn quickly on the job. It no longer makes sense for young people to expend time or money on a university degree, when plenty of viable roles can be learnt on the job.”

Changing attitudes to apprenticeships

In addition to declining emphasis on university learning, prospective students and their parents are placing higher value on apprenticeships. More than half of parents (55%) consider apprenticeships and university degrees as equally valid routes into the workplace.

Again, this largely comes down to the financial benefits of work-based learning. According to prospective students, newfound emphasis on apprenticeship learning is driven by the ability to learn and earn at the same time (63%), followed by the career prospects (20%), and not being able to afford university (19%).

A knowledge gap in schools still exists though, 27% of students don’t know anything about apprenticeships and the opportunities available.

Charlotte Blant added: “The decline in university applications presents an opportunity for employers to attract talent earlier, but they must do more to demonstrate the pathways available to talented young people. The education system is still geared towards the traditional school, college, university route, but this is increasingly unnecessary for a number of entry-level positions in exciting industries.”

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