Apprenticeships ‘face bigger image problem’ in Scotland than elsewhere in UK

apprenticesThe Scottish Government’s ambition of delivering 30,000 apprentices a year by 2020 could be a tougher challenge than it imagined due to an image problem north of the border.

A new YouGov survey commissioned by employment firm Reed in Partnership and qualifications body NCFE suggests that apprenticeships face a bigger ‘image problem’ in Scotland than elsewhere in Britain.

The research suggests that apprenticeships are less valued than university for young people across Britain - and indicates that this gulf in views is biggest in Scotland.

People in Scotland are 66 per cent less likely to want their children to do an apprenticeship compared to higher education. This is a bigger gulf than in England or Wales, where people are 60 per cent and 59 per cent less likely to want their child to go down the apprenticeship route compared to higher education.

The survey also shows that apprenticeships face a particular popularity problem with young people – with those aged 18-24 the least likely age group to see the merit of an apprenticeship. Across Britain, an 18-24 year old is almost four times less likely than someone aged 55+ to view an apprenticeship as the best option for 18 year olds. Only 7 per cent of people aged 18-24 considered apprenticeships as the best way forward, while 68 per cent think higher education is the best option.

A joint Reed in Partnership and NCFE report, ‘Delivering the apprenticeship ambition’, identifies poor quality careers advice as a key reason for this ‘image problem’ of apprenticeships. It states that in order to change young people’s perceptions of apprenticeships compared to higher education, careers advice in schools must become less narrowly focused on the university route.

The report makes the following recommendations to the government to improve the perception of apprenticeships:

  • Careers advice should promote alternative options to university, such as apprenticeships. It should begin at an earlier age and young people must be informed of the progression routes within industries if they choose a vocational path.
  • Increased employer engagement with schools is key to improving the perception of apprenticeships among young people. This should be encouraged by national government policy, but with a flexible model that encourages local partnerships.
  • Government should seek to increase the minimum wage for apprenticeships to the same as other workers in order to boost the image of apprenticeships.

  • Commenting on the challenge facing the government to deliver its apprenticeship ambition, Reed in Partnership managing director, Martin Fallon, said: “We support the Scottish Government’s aim to increase the number of young people going down the Modern Apprenticeship route after school. The benefits of apprenticeships are clear, both for the individuals undertaking them and for the taxpayer.

    “However, our new research highlights the scale of the challenge the government faces to realise this ambition.

    “Modern Apprenticeships continue to suffer from an image problem compared to Higher Education. The young people the Scottish Government wants to consider taking up apprenticeships are the least likely age group to view them favourably.”

    Managing director of NCFE, Emse Winch, said: “This research confirms what many in the education and skills sector have long suspected; that the apprenticeship ‘brand’ is weak after decades of changes to the system and promotion of a university route.

    “Careers advice in schools must include objective information for young people to be able to make the best decision for their own careers.”

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