A survey conducted by Busy Bees Training, part of the UK’s biggest childcare provider, found that nearly half (44 per cent) of school leavers felt there was not enough information available to them about the benefits of apprenticeships.
In addition, over a third (36 per cent) said there was no guidance available from their school or college at all.
Busy Bees Training manager, Fay Gibbin, believes more should be done at school level to encourage students to explore other alternatives to university.
“Limited information, advice and guidance is provided by education providers on vocational routes, particularly to those deemed ‘too intelligent’ to enrol onto an apprenticeship programme.
“Higher apprenticeships are available, with Level 4 and 5 the equivalent to a higher education certificate, a higher education diploma or a foundation degree, and Level 6 is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree.
“We are working to change people’s attitudes towards apprenticeships, and want schools and colleges to give correct, impartial information about apprenticeships, making sure school leavers have all the information available to them about their next step on the career ladder”, she said.
Busy Bees Early Years Training Academy, which runs apprenticeships in childcare and catering for hundreds of learners up and down the country, conducted the research to investigate how much information available to students about alternatives to further education.
There are many benefits of apprenticeships, such as enabling young people to gain hands-on training while working towards a qualification in their chosen industry. Over 130,000 businesses across the UK offer Apprenticeship places because they recognise their effectiveness at increasing productivity, improving business performance and ensuring a committed and competent workforce. Recent figures show that 80 per cent of companies who invest in apprentices have reported a significant increase in employee retention, according to Skills Training UK.
Bethany Skinner, 19, a Level 3 Apprentice from Busy Bees in Brough, has had a positive experience on her apprenticeship programme, she said: “I would wholeheartedly recommend working as an apprentice before going to university. It offers you the opportunity to gain invaluable ‘hands-on’ experience, and an insight into the role you will be taking on once you have completed your studies. After two years working within Busy Bees nursery, I know that this is the right career path for me.
“Apprenticeships are a great alternative to tradition classroom learning, and thanks to the Busy Bees Training apprenticeship programme, I have had the opportunity to gain practical experience alongside my academic studies – it’s the best of both!”
While the role of an apprentice is seen as a potential route to a great career, attitudes towards apprenticeships have changed in recent years.
The recent DEMOS Commission Report on Apprenticeships, revealed that the majority of parents today see apprenticeships as good in theory but intended for less gifted students. Two thirds of those surveyed said they would not want their own child to take an apprenticeship.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has said it wants to see a “radical reform programme that will make apprenticeships in England the best in the world.” It is also believed this would address the current skills shortage that may industries are experiencing.
Gibbin is calling for more support in recognising the advantages of apprenticeship programmes, she said: “The Government should provide free, up-to-date information on apprenticeship courses to schools, and consider putting incentive schemes in place to ensure that students who can achieve their career goals through an apprenticeship programme, rather than a costly, unnecessary degree course, are informed on the options available to them.
“Parents also need to be advised on the best course of action for their child’s future. Free government refresher courses should be made available to those responsible for offering careers advice to school leaver’s and their families, ensuring that there is a well-informed, expert careers adviser on hand in every secondary school throughout the UK.”