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Parents back apprenticeships - but not for their own children

More than nine out of 10 parents think apprenticeships are a good option for young people – but only a third think they would be best for their own child, according to a new survey.

The report by the cross-party thinktank Demos, published today, also reveals that just a fifth (19 per cent) of parents have been spoken to by their child’s school about apprenticeships – less than half the proportion (45 per cent) who have been given information about universities.

Demos polled 1,000 parents of 15- and 16-year-olds as part of its year-long Commission on Apprenticeships, which brought together politicians, academics and industry experts to suggest ways to increase the number of high-quality work placements and improve awareness.

The report finds that parents overwhelmingly back the idea of apprenticeships, regardless of gender, age, class or background, with 92 per cent believing them to be a good option.

Three-quarters of parents (77 per cent) also feel the number of young people doing an apprenticeship should be higher.

However, apprenticeships are still perceived by many parents as an option for the less academically able: 86 per cent agree that they are a good route for young people who struggle at school, while only 57 per cent say they would be useful for high-achievers.

Even more starkly, just under a third of parents (32 per cent) think that an apprenticeship would be the best option for their son or daughter, compared with 52 per cent who say university would be more appropriate.

Ian Wybron, a researcher at Demos, said: “All the major political parties agree we need to do more to promote high-quality apprenticeships. So it’s disheartening to see that so few parents and students are given the information they need to make an informed choice about them.

"Schools, businesses and policymakers should work together to promote apprenticeships as a first-rate option to be considered by all young people.”

Steve Radley, policy and strategic planning director at the Construction Industry Training Board, which backed the commission, said that despite awareness of apprenticeships being at an all-time high, too many of the people who were closest to young people still saw them as a second choice.

“In construction, apprenticeships are a high-quality option and a platform for a rewarding career, but the message isn’t getting through to parents, schools and students," he added. “We need to work together to ensure that young people do not miss out on these opportunities and the exciting career paths that follow."

The report makes a number of recommendations for future governments, including the introduction of a "mutual guarantee", where employers would pledge money towards off-the-job training on condition that apprentices completed their course or paid it back.

It also calls for a high-quality public sector careers service; all 14-16 students to be given the chance to take a vocational subject alongside academic study; and improved monitoring of school-leavers to find out how their choices have affected their careers.

Skills minister Nick Boles welcomed the review's support for the government's apprenticeship reform.

“Transforming apprenticeships is about changing attitudes," he said. "That’s why we have launched the ‘Get In. Go Far’ campaign that highlights to young people, parents and teachers the range of high-quality apprenticeship opportunities available in leading employers such as IBM, ASOS and Sky.

"We’ve also created Higher and Degree apprenticeships in jobs ranging from law to engineering, meaning people can get a degree while working and earning a wage.

"Apprenticeships play a key role in the success of our long term economic plan and, with more than 2 million apprenticeships started since 2010, I am proud to say our reforms are delivering."

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