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Apprenticeships are not a second class option to university – they create real choices for young people

Blog

2 MIN READ

 
Date Posted: 23 October 2014

UK employers have a significant role to play in raising the profile and credibility of alternative routes into work

Apprenticeships are too often viewed as a second class option to going to university. UK employers have a significant role to play in changing this perception: improving the status, credibility and attractiveness of alternative routes into work for young people. In addition they provide choice and the right career path for young people regardless of their background or circumstances.

These were just some of the conclusions reached at our lively half day conference on Tuesday [21 October] Unlocking Potential: the role of employers, including social enterprises, in the development of young people’s skills - held in partnership with the Social Business Trust (SBT).

The number of apprenticeships and school leaver programmes available in the UK has increased in the last two years, with the main political parties pledging to grow apprenticeships beyond next year’s election.

But the rise in opportunities has not been met with an increased appetite for apprenticeships, or increased status compared with university, which remains society’s main measure of ability and achievement for young people - the perceived passport into employment.

Yet the variety and quality of school leaver programmes and apprenticeships available today across industry can lead to the same career opportunities as a university degree.

So why, as panellist Jon Yates co-founder of The Challenge relayed it, are some parents saying, “Apprenticeships are great…for someone else’s kid.”

That’s simply a view that can’t continue even if it only represents a section of society. Apprenticeships and school leaver programmes can fast track young people into careers and create earning power. They can lead to career fulfilment and fantastic networks and are positive for local communities and economic growth.

Four key actions were highlighted for employers by conference attendees, including business leaders, teachers, service providers, social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations:

  1. Open up the curriculum and offer work experience to Year 7’s and up: Government and schools to work with employers to make space in the curriculum to get more young people informed about career choices, by offering work experience from Year 7 onwards, supported by business mentors. As our panellist Zoe Onyenuforo (who is on EY’s School Leaver programme) said, “Work skills must be more present in the education system from early on: work experience shouldn’t happen just in Year 10.”
  2. Industry led employer groups to work with teachers: Employers should work more closely with teachers (and through them to parents) to offer a greater understanding of the wide ranging career opportunities open to young people.
  3. ‘Try before you buy’ approach: More employers to make a commitment to offer work experience: a try before you buy approach that benefits both young people and employers
  4. Use your regional footprints: Large employers, with big brand fire-power, large customer base and networks, need to connect better with local employers and social enterprises through their regional offices, collaborating to improve access to job opportunities for young people.

It is only by working together - employers, educators, government, social enterprise, not-for-profit and service providers - that wholesale change can occur and we can create real choices for young people taking their first step into work, regardless of background or circumstance.

For more on the EY Foundation and Social Business Trust half day conference, go to Twitter and search for #employersrole or visit eyfoundaiton.co.uk or socialbusinesstrust.org 

 

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