Parents are still sceptical about high-quality technical education. The entire FE sector has a duty to change their minds, writes Anne Milton

As exam time approaches and lots of young people will be thinking about their futures, I want to talk directly to colleges and providers about what they should be letting parents know about apprenticeships.

I’ve spoken to lots of fantastic and talented apprentices who said the support from their parents was really important in helping them make the decision to do an apprenticeship.

For lots of parents, a university education is still seen as the Holy Grail for their children, and apprenticeships as the second-class option to a traditional academic qualification. Perhaps that’s down to the fact that apprenticeships suffer from a long-held PR problem; if you ask most people about an apprenticeship they still think of plumbers and electricians.

This is exactly what needs to change.

Many parents don’t know that apprenticeships can lead to lots of different jobs in a wide range of industries – from cybersecurity, to banking, fashion and more. You can also now do an apprenticeship to become a teacher or even a solicitor.

Parents need to know that an apprenticeship is a real, paid job

So I want to change the way apprenticeships are seen in the eyes of parents for good. And to do that I need your help, because as providers and colleges you play a fundamental role in letting parents know about the various options and routes that are out there for their children.

Parents need to know that an apprenticeship is a real, paid job, and a young person on an apprenticeship will receive at least the national apprentice wage of £3.70 per hour.

Most employers pay more than the minimum – the latest pay survey estimates the average gross hourly pay received by apprentices in England was £6.70 an hour at level two and three, and £9.83 for higher level apprentices.

We are also rolling out more and more degree apprenticeships, combining a high-quality degree with an apprenticeship.

These degree apprenticeships are a great way to earn while you learn at some of the UK’s top universities and get a head start in long-term careers. And with the training completely paid for, no student loan is needed. Degree-level apprenticeships are available in a variety of sectors, such as engineering, digital, aerospace and nuclear.

They are also available across England, with universities including Newcastle, Salford, Derby, Birmingham, Bristol, Plymouth, London and Bournemouth offering them.

The lifetime benefits associated with gaining an apprenticeship at levels two and three are very significant, standing at between £48,000 and £74,000 for level two and between £77,000 and £117,000 for level three.

Those who gain a higher-level apprenticeship could earn £150,000 more on average over their lifetime compared to those with level three vocational qualifications.

These are really important messages that we need to get across to parents, so I’m calling on you as providers and colleges to reach out to them to help them navigate and understand the options available to their children.

To help with this the Education and Skills Funding Agency is investing £2m in the Apprenticeship Support and Knowledge in Schools programme which provides schools and colleges with material on apprenticeships.

Providers and colleges can also point parents towards the National Careers Service’s job profiles, which can help their child consider what sort of career they’d like to pursue. There’s also the ‘Find an apprenticeship’ service on gov.uk, where up to 28,000 apprenticeship vacancies from employers across England are advertised. And there’s also the ‘Amazing apprenticeships vacancy snapshot’, where they can find out when applications open for apprenticeships at top companies and view employer profiles. The National Apprenticeship Service has also produced a guide: ‘How to write an award-winning apprenticeship application’.

It’s so important that we all do everything we can to make parents aware of the amazing opportunities that apprenticeships can bring their children, and encourage them to see apprenticeships as a first class option.

If you have any questions then do get in touch with the National Apprenticeship Service by clicking here and here.

Anne Milton is Minister for skills and apprenticeships