Negative stereotypes rife as Apprenticeship uptake flatlines

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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Gender stereotypes and false perceptions among teens, parents and teachers are threatening the government's plans to expand Apprenticeship provision, news research is warning. Pete Henshaw takes a look

Gender stereotyping and negative perceptions by students, parents and teachers are two of the main reasons that the number of apprentices is flatlining, research has found.

These problems are proving difficult to tackle and are threatening the government’s ambition to have three million Apprenticeships by 2020.

The research, which has been carried out by the charity Education and Employers, was published to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week, running from March 5 to 9.

It says that teachers and school staff need to be given further advice and information on Apprenticeships, while students need to have more opportunities to meet employers and former or current apprentices during their time at school.

The report’s authors hope that by increasing such opportunities the lack of reliable information available to students when considering career options will be mitigated.

The latest figures show that the number of people starting Apprenticeships dropped to 114,000 between August and October 2017, down from 156,000 in the same period in 2016 – a drop of around 27 per cent. The previous three-month period saw a 59 per cent drop in uptake.

Within these figures, the biggest drop came in the basic level intermediate Apprenticeship, which fell 38 per cent. The highest level course – Degree Apprenticeships – saw uptake rise by 27 per cent to 11,600.

Overall, 608,900 participants on an Apprenticeship have been reported so far in 2017/18, compared with 638,700 at this time in 2016/17 – a decrease of 4.7 per cent.

While the biggest falls have been seen in schemes for adult apprentices, government data also shows that fewer than 26 per cent of Apprenticeship starts are currently coming straight from school or college.

Critics have partly blamed the increasing costs and complexity of setting up schemes and the inflexibility of the Apprenticeship Levy (Sharp fall in Apprenticeship take-up sparks debate over Levy, SecEd, January 2018: http://bit.ly/2H4MZPP), but the Education and Employers research finds that in terms of take-up among young people, too little has been done to tackle gender stereotyping and negative perceptions in careers provision. It says not enough is being done to promote “non-traditional” roles to students.

Employers in the research said that it is often parents’ views of Apprenticeships that represent one of the biggest barriers preventing school-leavers from beginning a course, while students’ perceptions are that Apprenticeships are “low pay” and offer less flexibility than university.

The report finds that schools which successfully send higher numbers of students into Apprenticeships start their careers advice and guidance programmes at a younger age – notably well before key decision-making ages.

At the same time, young people who have a positive perception of Apprenticeships receive a greater number of employer engagement activities in school.

The report echoes well established concerns that the careers education provided in schools can be patchy and biased towards academic routes. It found that of those young people aged 19 or 20 on an Apprenticeship course, only 20 per cent found out about it via school or college, whereas almost 30 per cent found out via family or personal connections.

The report states: “Despite a number of different government initiatives and guidelines related to the way careers provision is delivered in England, advice and guidance, especially around Apprenticeships, remains patchy. Almost one-third of respondents to the recent ACCA/YouGov survey had never received advice on Apprenticeships, with 17 per cent of all respondents also noting that they did not value any source of careers advice received in relation to Apprenticeships.”

Dr Elnaz Kashefpakdel, head of research at Education and Employers, said: “Our findings highlight the pressing need for closer ties between employers and state schools to ensure that all young people – regardless of gender and backgrounds – have information about all the possible career routes available to them. To achieve this, we are calling on more people who have taken an Apprenticeship route to go into schools and colleges to talk to young people informally about the job they do by signing up to volunteer with schools.”

Commenting on the report, Janna Simpson, an apprentice project manager at Highway’s England, added: “I think it’s really important for apprentices to talk to state school children. I never had that and the jobs and routes to a career that I learned about in school were very small compared to what’s actually out there.”

Education and Employers is working with National Apprenticeship Service to help find volunteers to go into schools to talk about their experience of Apprenticeships. It is also training teachers to help them better talk to students about Apprenticeships.

The charity’s Inspiring the Future programme helps schools to source industry speakers to run in-school sessions. The programme offers a free online match-making platform to connect schools and volunteers. Schools can search for volunteers across different sectors and areas while companies and individuals can give insight into their role, key skills and career route to help inspire and educate pupils.


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