While research suggests that many people still believe apprenticeships are more appropriate for blue-collar roles, PricewaterhouseCoopers' Gaenor Bagley argues that service-focused apprenticeships could be the boost the economy needs.
There was mixed news for employers during National Apprenticeship Week in March. On the one hand, research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggested that between now and 2022, almost four million people will complete an apprenticeship and boost the economy by £3.4 billion. On the other, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) highlighted how apprenticeships still suffer from the misconception they are more appropriate for manual or blue-collar roles, and that only one-fifth of parents felt an apprenticeship had the "same status" as a university education.
More recently, there was more positive news for apprenticeships; a report published by ICM research found that higher apprentices are more employable than university graduates.
As head of people at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Bagley has been heavily involved in building and promoting the company's Higher Apprenticeship programmes in professional services, which deliver training and qualifications in areas including business recovery, tax and consulting. PwC has also been working with more than 40 other employers in the sector, including many small and medium-sized enterprises, to promote this route as a viable alternative to university for school leavers.
PwC was already one of the first major graduate recruiters to extend its recruitment pool to school leavers, having provided an A-level entry scheme for more than 10 years. When £1.5 million in funding to support new Higher Apprenticeships in the professional services sector was announced 2011, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to formalise that programme. And given that a Higher Apprenticeship offered an equivalent to the early stages of a university degree just as universities were announcing their n