Why parents are the barrier to apprenticeship uptake

15 Jun 2022, 6:00

The challenge to apprenticeship uptake is the stigma of the route for parents, writes Ben Hansford

In the UK, university is still broadly viewed as the default path for school leavers. A university degree is seen as the most respected route for young jobseekers which, in the eyes of many, guarantees them a ‘successful’ job.

This is despite the fact that there has been a government focus on apprenticeships and other vocational routes into the workforce over the past few years as these have opened up to include a variety of skills, including technological and digital training.

However, even with a slowdown in apprenticeship starts through the pandemic, the programme has proved itself robust, and early indications show that apprenticeships are back on the rise and proving more popular than ever.

In 2019/20 alone, there were 719,000 people enrolled on an apprenticeship across England, with 322,500 apprenticeship starts and 146,900 apprenticeship achievements (the number of those who passed the end-point assessment).

Over 4.75 million apprenticeships were started over the past decade from May 2010 to January 2021. However, in 2020/21, 47 per cent of apprentices dropped out.

So it’s encouraging that employers such as Lloyds, HSBC and Asda offer apprenticeship programmes as a route into long careers.

But one of the main barriers to apprenticeship uptake in the UK is parents.

Ever since apprenticeships were reinvigorated ten years ago, the challenge has always been to remove the stigma of this route with parents. Parents remain the number one barrier to exponential growth in a proven route into a career.

Outdated views are stopping many school leavers from looking toward apprenticeships as a viable path into the workforce.

More than 60 per cent of parents of children aged 13 to 18 said they were concerned their child would be stuck ‘making the tea’ if they were to choose an apprenticeship, according to a 2020 survey by parent website Mumsnet.

Parents are still worried learners will be stuck making the tea

Parents need to be further informed and educated on the benefits of apprenticeships, the different types and exactly how they are run.

While government initiatives such as National Apprenticeship Week are great at raising awareness of apprenticeships among young people, without parental buy-in, young people may not get involved.

In fact research undertaken by the Association of Accounting Technicians in 2019 found that students feel they are being pushed down the route of going to university. Six out of ten students said their parents wanted them to pick that option.

The government and FE providers need to urgently rethink their apprenticeship strategies to target parents. This will help to combat the lack of information parents have regarding this route into work and relieve the stresses around whether a young adult is ready to take on a work or study programme.

To do so, here are the steps to take:

  1. Widen the marketing strategy to target not only school leavers but parents too.
  2. Lead with the fact that alongside more hands-on trade apprenticeships, there are professional and degree apprenticeships that span a variety of skills and sectors. Many parents don’t realise this.
  3. The costs of university versus apprenticeships should be included. This is even more relevant given the news that students will now be paying 12 per cent interest on their university loans.
  4. FE providers should hold discussions about after-school options with both students and their parents.
  5. Invite past students who have gone on to do an apprenticeship to talk about their experience. This is also a helpful way of bringing the apprenticeship experience to life.

Apprenticeships offer people the opportunity to earn a route into a profession, a degree, gain invaluable workforce experience and sometimes, have a job at the end of their programme, all at a lower cost than a university degree.

We must make sure parents are absolutely clear about this, and see apprenticeships as a competitive opportunity.

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