The rise of degree apprenticeships: A new future for young people

01 November 2017 -

Apprentice KeyAutumn ushers in the new academic year, yet over the summer we started to see how traditional academic routes could in time become overshadowed by the new degree apprenticeships

Petra Wilton

While many young people celebrated their A-level and GCSE results this summer, far too many will struggle to make the leap from education to the world of work.

CMI’s research, An Age of Uncertainty, with the EY Foundation, showed that a third of 16- to 21-year-olds aren’t con dent about finding a job in the next few years.

This is reflected in the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, which reveal that the number of young people (16 to 24) not in education, employment or training from April to June 2017 was still high, at 790,000.

Clearly, the UK continues to struggle with training young people for entering the workplace.

A new school-to-work syllabus to develop employability, team leadership and management skills could go a long way in helping with this transition. Students turning their backs on further and higher education due to the cost need to be made aware of alternative options. Higher and degree apprenticeships offer a direct route to skilled employment without the prospect of £50,000 of debt.

But, while most young people and their parents have an understanding of universities and traditional degree courses, awareness of alternative higher-education routes, such as degree apprenticeships, is still unacceptably low.

To get the most out of talented students of all backgrounds, this needs to change.

CMI’s recent survey, in July 2017, covering 1,004 UK parents of 11- to 18-year-old children, found that only one in five had any knowledge of degree apprenticeships.

Worryingly, awareness of these programmes was much worse among families from less privileged backgrounds. The research showed that, while a quarter of parents from the most highly educated and highest-paid social groups were familiar with degree apprenticeships, this fell to one in ten among parents from lower socio-economic bands.

Parents are the primary source of careers advice for young people, so how do we raise awareness, change outdated perceptions of apprenticeships and reach out to those less privileged families likely to benefit from them most?

It is an important question, as the high cost of university and unappealing prospect of huge debts threaten wider participation in higher education. For the first time since 2012, we have just seen a sharp fall in university applications, and government figures show that a shocking number are giving up on higher education altogether.

The stakes are high, not just for students and schools, but for employers as well.

Raising awareness of degree apprenticeships will require both education providers and employers to shift their focus, and all will need to collaborate better in their promotion of these new degree apprenticeship courses. All should be making a concerted effort to open the eyes of young people to the fact that university isn’t their only higher-education option.

As participation begins to drop in response to increasingly burdensome fees, we need to start shouting about degree apprenticeships. We owe it to the thousands of bright youngsters currently in danger of missing out.

Petra Wilton is director of strategy at CMI. Join the conversation on Twitter: @PetraWilton