Why's there still a stigma around apprenticeships?

A survey shows more young people are considering apprenticeships - but that is not the full story, writes Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

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At first glance, it is good news: According to today’s report from housebuilding company Redrow, the number of current Redrow apprentices who feel there is no stigma associated with their role as a construction apprentice is the highest in the four years since the survey began at 59 per cent. 

However, it is not quite as simple as that - because that figure also means, worryingly, that four in 10 people currently on an apprenticeship in the house building sector believe there is a stigma attached to being a construction apprentice.

If the figure is this high among those people who have chosen to do an apprenticeship, imagine how high it must be among the population as a whole.

On of the reasons for this is hinted at in today's Redrow report on apprenticeships: Only 22 per cent, so just over one in five, of the young people questioned in the survey, said they were receiving high-quality careers advice in school.

Regionally, that number was lowest in the South East, at 21 per cent, while young people in London were significantly more likely to have received information about apprenticeships, at 59 per cent. 

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#InspiringApprentices: Read their stories 

Apprentices tell their stories

This is a significant issue. It is now almost a year since we began our Tes #InspiringApprentices campaign – a series where young apprentices tell their story. They share an insight into their day to day life as an apprentice – their role, their support system in the job, their goals and aspirations. Crucially, however, they also tell us how they came to be an apprentice. And to say that cases where the young person was inspired by the schools careers advice were rare would be, at best, an understatement.

Schools focus on roads to university, they say, and they found their apprenticeship doing some independent online research. Or they only heard about the large variety of apprenticeship routes available when they came across the vacancy for their post. Some heard about apprenticeships from relatives or friends. 

The inspirational careers adviser who put them in touch with a suitable employer or training provider is, it seems, still a rare thing. This needs to change. 

There is an acknowledgement of this at government level - it is why another National Apprenticeship Week is about to be held in 10 days' time. If there was no stigma, and if young people had all the information they needed to make the right choice for them, NAW2020 would most likely not be necessary. 

There were, however, also some good news in today’s survey. The majority of young people now say they would consider an apprenticeship – or are already on an apprenticeship scheme. Crucially, many parents now discuss apprenticeship roles with their children - 70 per cent overall, and 77 per cent of parents in London and 76 per cent in Yorkshire and the East Midlands.

It is a start. The figures show there are pockets of good practice, and they are having an effect. They also show, as do our #InspiringApprentices every week, that young people can find their way into apprenticeships even when they have no support in their school or role models among their peers. 

Real change, I believe, will happen when these apprentices become the role models of tomorrow's school children. The more role models there are for every school, the easier it will be for careers advisers to point out pathways and to stay informed. 

Apprenticeships are not for everyone. And with some uncertainty over funding, I would certainly not advise them for all school leavers. But they need to be discussed as an option - for young people of all abilities and in all industry sectors. 


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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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