Schools are not encouraging enough young people to seek work in the construction industry, MSPs have been told.
Apprentices giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Economy and Fair Work Committee today have accused schools of giving more support to pupils wishing to go down “the university route”, as opposed to those interested in “the apprenticeship route”.
One apprentice commented that careers advice in her school was “very, very poor” and “if you weren’t interested in university, it was almost as if you were ignored”.
However, another apprentice who had left school more recently, in 2017, said he thought the situation “had got a lot better” in recent years.
Shifting views: More Scots seeing value of apprenticeships
The Scottish government’s flagship Developing the Young Workforce Programme aims to address concerns that Scottish education is too focused on the needs of “academic” pupils, by creating more vocational options and closer cooperation between schools and colleges – although school-based vocational courses remain relatively rare.
Yesterday, first minister Nicola Sturgeon launched a network connecting schools with apprentices to act as role models for their students.
However, Daniel McKelvie told today's committee that he found out about his construction and built environment apprenticeship through Apprenticeship Scotland and that there was more support available in his school for pupils going on to university.
He added: "There was support there if you went and asked for it, but if you didn't really know what you wanted to do then it was very hard to find it."
Jessica Morris, who is also doing a construction and built environment apprenticeship, said that after leaving school in 2013 she learned about the industry through her own research.
"Careers advice was very, very poor at my school. I received my first and only careers meeting three weeks before I went on exam leave in sixth year," said Ms Morris.
"And if you weren't interested in university, it was almost as though you were ignored. There just wasn't the information available for any other routes. I think that's something that needs addressed."
Elliot Ruthven, a plastering apprentice, said: "Everything was pushed down the university routes and if you weren't going to university, you were sort of left to find out what you want to do.
"The careers advice was [that] if you were going to uni, you were given 'right, these are the grades you need' – and that was sort of it.
"Whereas, if you wanted to go down an apprenticeship route, you were just sort of left to find out what you wanted to do."
David Watson, a carpentry and joinery apprentice, said that he entered the sector in his twenties, having not been made fully aware of the routes available during his time at school.
He gained his apprenticeship after making phone calls to different companies and said: "I wasn't really guided in school with the career advice of what route to take.
"I knew myself that I wasn't going to go to university. If I was given a trade route, like 'that's an option you can take and make a good living out it', I probably would have taken that route, but nobody gave me a real indication that that was an option."
However, Liam Clark, also a carpentry and joinery apprentice, left school in 2017 and suggested that the support on offer had improved.
He said: "I feel like it's got a lot better. I left school two years ago and the amount of help they give you is quite a lot.
"They had different sessions you could go to. There weren't specific people that they chose for it, you had to make your own effort, but it was there."
The apprentices were giving evidence as part of the Economy and Fair Work Committee inquiry into the construction industry as it attempts to understand the challenges the sector faces, including how successful it is attracting talent and meeting skills shortages.