How can we change the perception of apprenticeships?

Paul Fegan says it’s time for businesses (in all industries) to understand what apprenticeships offer. 

The most recent National Apprenticeship week has been and gone. Now in its eleventh year, the aim of the week is to spread the word about apprenticeships. Yet much work still needs to be done to change the perception of apprenticeships.

Long gone are the days when apprenticeships were simply for jobs requiring manual labour. From pharmacy to surveying, you can now find an apprenticeship in most industries, creating opportunities for a wide variety of people, and not just for 16-18 years olds either; apprenticeships are open to all and are now extremely popular with adults looking to retrain.

Over the years, the image of apprenticeships has changed. Companies which once received fewer than 20 applications now receive hundreds — and not simply from those with low grades. Students with higher grades and ambitions to climb the ladder are applying for apprenticeships — and with good reason.

Gaining hands-on experience in an industry means learning the right skills and seeing how a business functions on a daily basis. Plus you earn a salary as well as learning and you can earn up to £24,000 per annum as well as receiving holiday pay. 

Educating students from an early age about their options when they leave school is a crucial way to increase the knowledge and perception about apprenticeships.

But changing people’s perception of apprenticeships may still take some time. Research by Investors in People surveyed both parents and young people (aged 16 to 23) about their views of apprenticeships. Over 50% of the parents saw apprenticeships as ‘a career route for people who want to work in the trades’ whereas only 39% of young people agreed with this statement.

Apprenticeships aren’t simply for students and school or college leavers. The fact that people of any age can apply should be promoted. So how do we change this perception and promote the opportunities that apprenticeships offer?

Presenting students with choice

Schools and colleges are keen to promote university as a next step for leavers. However, spreading the word about apprenticeships should be given an equal amount of praise and time for discussion. There should be a particular focus on the fact that apprenticeships are available in so many industries.

Young people need to be aware of their options. Courses such as digital marketing are available both at universities and through apprenticeships and you can gain a Higher or Degree apprenticeship, equivalent to a Foundation degree and above and a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree.

Educating students from an early age about their options when they leave school is a crucial way to increase the knowledge and perception about apprenticeships.

Promoting apprenticeships to current employees

It’s not just school or college leavers who benefit from apprenticeships. In fact, many more people are choosing to upskill and retrain after working for a number of years so are choosing to do an apprenticeship . 

The apprenticeship levy is an ideal way for businesses to offer training to their current employees as well as taking on entry level apprentices but a large proportion of businesses who have access to the funds are still not using it.

How can we support and promote apprenticeships of all kinds?

69% of managers would like to have an apprentice in the management and leadership team. This demonstrates that the demand is there if people are aware of these opportunities. It’s through these opportunities that the next generation of leaders will be fit-for-purpose to take on these important roles within companies. 

If more businesses begin to offer apprenticeships in management, technology and other roles, the norm will begin to change. Many businesses are already offering some fantastic courses and changing the status quo.

Colleges and schools need to make students aware of the options available. University isn’t the only option for college leavers. With university fees at their peak, opting for an apprenticeship is a viable option for all students.

It may take a while but if businesses, schools and training colleges work together to promote the plethora of opportunities available for apprenticeships, we may start to radically change perceptions. 


About the author

Paul Fegan is the Managing Director of Capital City College Training


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