Matthew Hancock made the comments during a debate on Apprenticeships hosted by the Industry Apprentice Council (IAC) last week.
The audience of around 100 apprentices, employers and education organisations raised concerns during the debate about a lack of Apprenticeships careers advice and guidance in schools as well as the wider public perception of vocational routes.
Mr Hancock said: “It needs to become the new norm that when a learner leaves school they either go into university or an Apprenticeship.
“The very best people to promote Apprenticeships are apprentices themselves. Our role, as government, is to open up opportunities for apprentices and companies to promote Apprenticeships to schools and colleges.
“We’re also putting a stronger legal duty on schools to provide independent and impartial advice. So we are putting that duty on schools and helping companies and apprentices get into schools.”
A recent survey run by the IAC involving around 600 industry apprentices, revealed that less than nine per cent found out about Apprenticeships through either their careers advisor or teacher. More than half had used their own initiative.
One apprentice at the debate said: “We have got a generation of teachers who have been taught by a generation of teachers who have gone to university. They have no experience of other career routes.”
It has been widely acknowledged that many schools are struggling to provide full and effective careers advice after the axing of £200 million in funding for the national network of Connexions services.
As a result, schools were given the legal duty in September 2012 to deliver “independent and impartial” careers guidance for students in years 9 to 11. From this year, the duty extended to year 8 as well as 6th-formers or college students aged 16 to 18. However, no extra funding has been forthcoming to support schools to deliver any of these services.
The debate, which took place as part of National Apprenticeship Week, also raised issues of stereotyping and the gender imbalance within Apprenticeships. The IAC was formed by awarding organisation EAL with the aim of giving apprentices a national forum. Visit www.eal.org.uk/industry-apprentice-council