One of the most positive shifts in education over the last few years has been the almost tangible increase in the prestige of apprenticeships.
This shift stands to reason. Compared to Higher Education, apprenticeships hold several advantages:
- There is no limit on how many Apprenticeships you can apply for, compared to the shortlist of 5 courses on UCAS. Recently, for example, I heard of a student in Birmingham who applied 5 times for a particular School Leaver Programme at Ernst & Young and was successful on the fifth occasion.
- Students can get paid anywhere up to £23,500 a year, while doing a School Leaver Programme or Degree level Apprenticeship, for 2-5 years, have no debts incurred at the end of that period, have proven work experience and qualifications, and be given company benefits and most likely a job at the end of it.
The government is unequivocally pushing the apprenticeship agenda.
Below are some excerpts from the recently published 'English Apprenticeships: Our 2020 Vision' paper from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
I thought this was quite a useful read, especially for schools which have historically been focused – even blinkered – on getting students through UCAS!
Section 1.2 of the paper talks about the monetary benefit of Apprenticeships:
'These benefits translate into significant monetary returns for individuals over a working life. These add up to between £48,000 and £74,000 for level 2 apprenticeships; and between £77,000 and £117,000 for level 3 apprenticeships. Those completing an apprenticeship at level 4 or above could earn £150,000 more on average over their lifetime.'
Section 2.21 talks about quality and accountability:
'Individuals should know which employers have the highest quality apprenticeship programmes. We are developing a list of Top 100 apprenticeship employers with media partners, similar to the Top 100 graduate employers list, to highlight the employers that are highest rated by apprentices. This will be available from summer 2016.'
Section 2.27 talks about apprenticeships in jobs historically only associated with university:
'...These are now available in occupations as diverse as Solicitor, Software Developer, Accountant, Dental Technician and Space Engineer. Degree apprenticeships involve employers, universities and relevant professional bodies co-designing apprenticeships to meet full occupational competency where the apprentices must complete a degree (bachelor’s or master’s) as part of their apprenticeship.'
And finally Section 4 reinforces that careers advice isn’t only for students at the point of leaving school:
'... We have given schools a statutory duty to ensure that all their year 8-13 pupils have access to independent careers guidance, including on apprenticeships...'
How many schools really do this from year 8? According to Ofsted’s Sir Michael Wilshaw, not enough!
In September Sir Michael said: “The fact we’ve only got six per cent of youngsters going into apprenticeships is a disaster, and it’s really important that schools are fair on their youngsters and make sure that all the options are put to them.”
And Ofsted recently tweeted,
“Too few pupils know about #apprenticeships. Teachers are often no better informed. Decent careers advice is frequently unavailable”
But if anything is going to persuade schools to ‘get with the programme’ and give apprenticeships a fair hearing, it’s this (from the ‘2020 Vision’ paper):
'From 2015/16 learner destinations will be one of the headline performance measures in the school performance tables for 16-18 year olds and will include data on the proportion of young people who progress to an apprenticeship...'
It’s a shame that league tabling is so influential when it comes to affecting change in schools, but this is very much a change I feel I can get behind!
John Hillis, Unifrog Area Manager for the Midlands