Apprenticeships are at the heart of the government’s efforts to transform vocational training and decrease youth unemployment. If the target of creating 3 million more apprenticeships by 2020 is to be reached, a step-change in the way that apprenticeships are viewed by young people is crucial.
These views must be tackled while young people are in secondary education. The Association of Colleges – in partnership with TES – recently asked college principals what they saw as the barriers to the adoption of apprenticeships: 42 per cent said that people simply didn’t know enough about them.
The research also showed that this knowledge gap might result from a lack of encounters between young people and employers and FE providers (“Schools don’t open their doors to us, say colleges,” 13 May).
We already know from Sir John Holman’s research into what works in careers and enterprise provision, for grant-awarding charity Gatsby, that these encounters are incredibly important. But in the TES survey, just 11 per cent of college principals reported that they been given comprehensive access to schools in order to share information on their apprenticeship schemes.
The research also found that nearly half of principals (49 per cent) believe a lack of businesses offering apprenticeships is a key barrier. While this may have been true previously, there has been a real change in the way that apprenticeships are viewed by businesses over the past few years, and this trend is only likely to continue, especially as the impending apprenticeship levy comes into effect.
Five years ago, Capgemini, which I chair, would not have considered apprenticeships a viable route for recruiting future talent. This year, we will take on more apprentices than graduates. I therefore believe that it is the responsibility of businesses to work with schools and colleges to communicate this change in attitude and the opportunities available. We know that access to representatives from FE and business is inconsistent for young people across England.
Pupils do this at least once a year from Year 7 onwards in only 39 per cent of schools. This was reflected in a report by the Careers and Enterprise Company, which I also chair, that identified “cold spots”: the areas of England most in need of additional support on careers.
This patchy coverage is in part because it is difficult for employers, schools and colleges to make connections with each other.
We created the Enterprise Adviser Network to solve this issue. Delivered with local enterprise partnerships, this is the cornerstone of our work, intended to make it simpler for businesses to engage with schools and colleges. Since the launch, more than 600 schools and colleges have signed up to work with us, and we have recruited 60 full-time enterprise coordinators. They are working with clusters of 20 schools and colleges to understand local offers from service providers, and to simplify the task for schools and colleges that are attempting to develop plans.
We also have 340 enterprise advisers who work directly with a school or college’s senior leadership team to help them build employer engagement and careers and enterprise plans.
At the Careers and Enterprise Company’s annual conference in Liverpool, more than 550 people from business, education and the wider sector came together to discuss improvements. There is no shortness of willingness to bring about change. Now is the time to work together to make this a reality, so that every young person knows the options available and feels inspired to take control of their future career.
Christine Hodgson is chair of the Careers and Enterprise Company and Capgemini