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Higher-level apprentices earn more than most graduates, research reveals

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The majority of university students will go on to earn less than their peers on higher-level apprenticeships, a new study suggests.

Four out of five people who were likely to go to university said they thought that getting a degree would be better for their long-term prospects than work-based training, according to a recent ComRes poll. However, a report published today by the Sutton Trust reveals that students who complete a level 5 higher apprenticeship will earn an average of £1.5 million over the course of their careers – £50,000 more than the average for graduates from non-Russell Group universities. 

The Sutton Trust calculations factor in the cost of going to university, and compare this with the apprentice’s ability to earn while learning.

Currently 60 per cent of apprenticeships offered are set at level 2. The government plans to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020, but so far only 30,000 higher apprenticeships have been created.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “We need more good apprenticeships to offer genuine alternatives to A-levels and degrees. We also need to tackle the ingrained negative culture of apprenticeships that exists amongst teachers, parents and young people alike.”

Kirstie Donnelly, managing director of City & Guilds, said: “It’s good to see the Sutton Trust reinforce what we already know: that apprenticeships can and do provide a sustainable, high-quality route into excellent careers for many young people. As we found in our Making Apprenticeships Work report, which was compiled by leading business figures, society has essentially misled the younger generation to assume that higher education is always the best option. Yet figures for graduate salaries are skewed by the very high earnings in certain occupations – the truth is that apprenticeships can also be a financially and personally rewarding choice.”

Alice Roberts, a 21-year-old apprentice at Jaguar Land Rover, agreed that apprenticeships offered many advantages over the traditional degree route. “You can earn while you learn, receive training tailored to the job you’ll have when you finish, and apply the skills and knowledge learned at university to real-life situations,” she said.

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