AAC2022, Apprenticeships

Students are keen on apprenticeships, but still need earlier guidance

20 Mar 2022, 8:00

Among current undergraduate applicants, almost half expressed an interest in apprenticeships, writes Clare Marchant

As part of FE Week’s focus on apprenticeships, we’ve delved into our latest UCAS survey data to get an up-to-date picture of how the undergraduate students and apprentices of the future feel about their next steps ̶ setting them up for life.

When we recently asked current year 12 and equivalent students how important they felt a degree was to their career plans, 72 per cent said “very”. However, within these respondents, 33 per cent said that they would rather do a degree apprenticeship than a traditional degree ̶ and a further 14 per cent said that they don’t have a preference.

Degree apprenticeships are clearly becoming more valued by young people, even by those who feel a degree is very important for their career. Among all respondents, the interest in degree apprenticeships is now at 36 per cent.

As this cohort gets closer to making decisions, we expect the appeal of apprenticeships to grow even further. Among current undergraduate applicants, almost half expressed an interest in apprenticeships when they set up their UCAS account.

We expect the appeal of apprenticeships to grow even further

However, there is a gulf between interest and supply of opportunities – just 3,600 apprentice starts in England were undertaken by apprentices aged 19 or under.

One of the most surprising results from our survey respondents was that students from more advantaged backgrounds (POLAR quintile 4 and 5) are most likely to still be unsure about their career plans. It may be that they feel confident in keeping their options open for now.

By contrast, those from slightly more disadvantaged backgrounds (Q2 and Q3) know what they want to be and have a clear plan – these individuals are focused on the task at hand.

Unsurprisingly though, those who have not received any careers advice (not even chats with friends/family) are most likely to be unsure about their career, or to have a firm plan.

Students who have had careers advice from outside of school are most likely to have a clear plan, highlighting the importance of building networks beyond the school gates.

The most common form of careers advice comes from family and friends (with around two-thirds having received guidance). Additionally, the most popular form of future career advice is to have a one-to-one with employers.

Worryingly, 12 per cent say they are yet to receive any guidance. Excellent careers advice is absolutely essential for young people as they make big decisions.

We know ucas.com and our supporting social media channels are online sources for guidance, so we are investing in them to reach students early because GCSE choices can have huge implications years later.

Around one-fifth of students couldn’t study a degree subject that interested them because they didn’t have the right subjects to progress.

There is a gulf between interest and supply of opportunities

The overriding message is that relevant and meaningful careers advice for students is essential, including advice coming earlier than perhaps many would assume.

From before first choices are made about GCSE options, right through to graduation and employment, feeling confident about next steps comes from being able to make well-informed decisions, using relevant and accessible data.

Last week, we hosted several online events as part of National Careers Week, helping students with their decisions and giving them the opportunity to find out what employers are looking for.

That’s in addition to our in-person discovery exhibitions and all our existing online content, including the new careers quiz we introduced in the autumn.

This clearly shows the link between the courses that previous students have studied and what jobs they went on to do, providing personalised and timely guidance to individuals.

Our aim is to bring true parity across undergraduate courses, apprenticeships and technical training by independently presenting these choices side-by-side. Hopefully, more young people will choose the right course of study for them.

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