Research commissioned by Babington has revealed that more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents agreed that an apprenticeship is as valuable, and provides a young person with equal future prospects, as a university degree.
This finding highlights a significant improvement in the perceptions of apprenticeships and solidifies the Government’s strategy in achieving greater parity between further education (FE) and higher education.
This is a positive step as it demonstrates a significant improvement in the perceived value of apprenticeships in comparison to previous years; a 2016 report found that only 24 per cent of young people believed an apprenticeship could give them a better chance of getting a good job than going to university.
This proves a deeper understanding for the value that apprenticeships provide not only for individuals, but for employers and the economy. This is especially true in light of the current pandemic, in which FE will play a significant role in building a skilled workforce to safeguard our economic recovery and long-term growth.
However, there remains a challenge and a lack of confidence in how this translates to employment opportunities, particularly when it comes to recruitment. The research also uncovered that 43 per cent of 16-24-year-olds agree that an employer would favour a university degree over an apprenticeship.
These findings suggest that while perceptions are improving within society, and positivity surrounding apprenticeships is growing, the Government and employers must work in tandem to develop recruitment practices which expel any bias towards university degrees.
Commenting on the findings, David Marsh, CEO of Babington, said:
“It is clear that the efforts of all of those within the FE sector are paying off and the Government’s strategy in encouraging apprenticeships is working. However, what we’re now seeing is a disconnect with employer recruitment which could have an impact on those individuals considering an apprenticeship and how it might affect their long-term career prospects.
“Therefore, we now need to focus on supporting a much wider cultural shift amongst employers and recruitment teams to ensure the parity of apprenticeships is considered at every level. After all, if we are to effectively embed an employer-centric skills system then we need to continue working on changing behaviours and practices and recognise the multitude of benefits and skills which apprentices can offer.”
Tracy Fairhurst, Head of Apprenticeships at Royal Mail said:
“We value apprenticeships at all levels as a hugely beneficial tool to develop talent within our organisation. There are a wide range of Higher and Degree Apprenticeships available to support career development and provide a true earn while you learn opportunity as an alternative to the traditional fulltime study at university.
“There are tangible benefits for both employer and apprentice – the apprentice gets to know the business and the sector in depth and can see the visible impact of applying learning. For the employer, there are commercial and bottom-line benefits from synoptic projects and fresh thinking.
“I would encourage any employer to think widely about options to fill a role to make sure you get the best return on your people investment and apprenticeships are often the obvious choice. We intend to do far more about achieving a more balanced approach to accessing talent pools based on the very positive results we are seeing so far.”
Ann Bridges, L&D Manager at M&S said:
“Our apprenticeship programmes are a vital part of our recruitment and talent strategy. For apprentices, they offer the perfect foundations to kickstart a career in retail; while for M&S, they serve to strengthen our skills & talent pipeline.
“Alongside partner Babington, in November we launched retail’s first level three data technician apprenticeship, which teaches M&S colleagues the fundamentals of how to manipulate and scrutinise data and translate it into valuable insights that the business can act upon. Programmes such as this are a key way we’ll continue to grow our digital & data capabilities and accelerate our transformation to become a digital first retailer.”
It is clear from our partners, and many others, that apprenticeships provide an array of benefits for both the individual and the employer. Therefore, it is key that we work together to help achieve a greater sense of equality when it comes to FE, including the collaboration between Government and employers in regard to recruitment practices. This will then better empower learners to build skills through apprenticeships and secure employment that will support long-term career development.