Ucas 'needs extra funds to run apprenticeship portal'

Ucas chief executive says the service needs more government funding to deliver an apprenticeship application portal

George Ryan

A Ucas-style portal for apprenticeships has been floated as a way to increase the number of people applying for apprenticeships

Ucas needs more funding from the government in order to deliver on a Conservative Party manifesto commitment of launching a “Ucas-style portal” for technical education.

Speaking to Tes, Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said the organisation would like to run a central apprenticeships application portal but, given that it is a charity with a limited budget, it would be up to the government to stump up the extra cash.

The idea of a Ucas-style portal for apprenticeships has been touted for a number of years and was a Conservative Party manifesto commitment in its 2017 manifesto.

Ms Marchant added: "We already do [have] an apprenticeship hub. Would we like to expand and deepen that? Absolutely. I would like DfE to work with us to be absolutely clear that that’s something that they support as well. So yes is the answer, in no uncertain terms. We are an independent charity, we’re a £49 million charity. There is only so much we can do without [the] government saying that this is something that does need to be addressed and there does need to be some sort of funding."

Apprenticeships 'most asked about' at Ucas events 

Ms Marchant said it is currently difficult for would-be apprentices, compared with those applying for an undergraduate degree through Ucas. She added: "If I’m 17- or 18-years-old, is it really clear for me if I’m considering an undergraduate degree what do I do if I want to do an apprenticeship? What are the other employment routes? In terms of entry into those areas, is it as easy as going into an undergraduate degree, and I don’t believe it is.

“I think it’s quite a complex set of decisions you need to make, and very often the undergraduate one is sometimes the simplest. You go to Ucas, you know your form, and you’re helped to do it. It’s becoming easier and we’re starting to ramp up our apprenticeship offering because we’re aware when we speak to 17- and 18-year-olds it’s the most asked questions at all our events.

“But people don’t understand how to find out about apprenticeships, so we’re overhauling all of our information and advice, in the absence of there being something else that helps them. I don’t think there’s enough to guide 17- and 18-year-olds in what is quite a complex world, I personally believe, compared with 20 years ago.

“When I was 17, you didn’t have social media, you didn’t have the internet, it was a bit more straightforward in terms of information and advice. Now it’s very complex, lots of different websites, lots of social media. So I think making those choices more straightforward and simple is the key thing."

More sixth-formers 'would consider apprenticeships'

In December, the government distanced itself from the manifesto pledge to introduce a Ucas-style portal for apprenticeships and technical education in its response to the Commons Education Select Committee’s report on apprenticeships.

In Manchester, meanwhile, mayor Andy Burnham is set to launch a Ucas-style portal for technical education by the autumn. The Greater Manchester Careers Application Platform aims to “make it simple” for young people and their parents to choose between an academic or technical pathway. 

Initially, the online platform will be available for 16- to 18-year-olds to apply for apprenticeships and courses offering technical qualifications, with the potential to expand the initiative to opportunities for those aged 18 or older, if it proves a success.

The results of a study published by GK and Partners in September showed that almost two-thirds of sixth formers would consider an apprenticeship if a Ucas-style hub was available for opportunities.

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George Ryan

George Ryan

George Ryan is a further education reporter for tes

Find me on Twitter @GeorgeMRyan

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