Too many providers are still being blocked from going into schools to talk about apprenticeships, despite enthusiasm from both employers and young people about the rewards they reap, says Anne Milton. We need to work together to tackle negative perceptions among teachers and parents

Top of the list of priorities for any minister for apprenticeships and skills must be making sure people know about, and can get access to, great further education and training — that’s the way to get a good job, go on to further training or progress your career.

At the start of the year, lots of people – particularly young people – will be starting to think about their futures. And as further education and training providers, you are all playing a vital role in this.

I have visited lots of businesses across the country and met and spoken to many fantastic and talented apprentices. What’s clear is that more and more people are recognising the life-changing benefits apprenticeships can bring. I have seen the enthusiasm among employers grow as they reap the rewards that apprentices are bringing to their workplaces.

But there are still too many people, parents and teachers who are sceptical about technical education and apprenticeships. So it is our job to work together to help change their minds and make sure they know about all that’s on offer.

To help with this, we have launched an apprenticeships campaign and website. Our real-life apprentice stars are of all ages and backgrounds. There’s Sarah, who is retraining as a nursing assistant in her 50s, and then there is 20-year-old Megan who is training to be a building design engineer at construction firm, Troup Bywaters + Anders. Their stories and journeys are truly inspirational, but they would not be where they are now without high-quality training and that’s down to all of you. Please do keep up the fantastic work you are doing and help us make sure more people can follow in their footsteps.

You are all playing a vital role in this

Something that is still of concern is that a year on from the Baker clause coming into effect, there are still too many of you having difficulties or being blocked from going into schools to speak to pupils about apprenticeships and technical education options. As the Prime Minister said in PMQs recently, it is important that young people are able to see the different routes available to them, different routes into the workplace.

If you are having difficulties, please let us know. I want to hear about it and I will intervene if there are clear cases of schools not complying. I have recently written to some of the largest school trusts that have not yet published arrangements for provider access on their school websites to ask them to tell me how they are complying. I will also be writing to all local authorities to remind them that their schools must make sure providers are able to talk to pupils.

Do make sure you make the most of the opportunity offered by the Baker clause, and by events you attend, to talk directly to pupils about what you do and the wide range of options on offer. We need to change the culture – we know it will take time, but if you don’t get out there it won’t happen.

Hopefully, you can all work together on ideas that will encourage schools to respond more positively to approaches from providers. For example, you could create a joint presentation on all of the apprenticeship and technical education options available locally. You could put on an event with local schools, colleges and employers to showcase further education, and invite parents too. I’m really keen to hear from any provider about the different approaches you are taking in your local areas and the impact they are having so that we can help share ideas and best practice.