Ucas to make it easier to apply for apprenticeships

Sixth-formers have claimed they don't have enough information on apprenticeships to make an informed choice
Peter Devlin / Alamy Stock Photo

Universities admissions service Ucas will make it easier for teenagers to apply for apprenticeships in a bid to tackle the “outdated stigma” of vocational qualifications.

According to a report to be published tomorrow (27 May), around half of sixth-formers considering their options after school are considering an apprenticeship as well as university.

Ucas chief Clare Marchant told The Times newspaper, which has seen the report, that “misplaced snobbery” is deterring students from taking the vocational route.

The report claims that a lack of information about apprenticeships offered by major employers means many sixth-formers don’t fully know the options available. A third of pupils at schools and half of those in colleges said they were not told about apprenticeships. Informing students about vocational opportunities is a legal requirement.

Only 8% of those surveyed associated getting an apprenticeship with a good job. However, more than half of school-leavers applying for higher education entry in 2022 have registered an interest in apprenticeships on Ucas’ site.

A survey by the Times Education Commission has found that apprenticeships are gaining in acceptance. When asked which prepared a young person better for the future, 42% of respondents said an apprenticeship versus 6% university. Forty-five percent said a university degree and an apprenticeship offered young people equal career chances.

Asked whether they would prefer their child to go to university or choose a vocational option such as an apprenticeship, 37% said university and 36% apprenticeship.

Ucas’ report adds that it wants its service to be “as strong for would-be apprentices as it is for prospective undergraduates”.

“This suggests a need to better explain what an apprenticeship is – a job with training – and it is an opportunity to promote degree apprenticeships as a hybrid between apprenticeships and undergraduate study to raise the prestige of apprenticeships overall.”

Jane Hickie , chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “The findings that a third of students at schools and half in colleges have not been told about apprenticeships despite the Baker clause simply confirms AELP’s long-held view that it a clause without teeth.

“The government appeared to recognise this when it published a three-point plan in its FE white paper to address the matter but the absence of specific measures in the recently published Skills Bill would suggest we have a plan that’s a bark but no bite.  AELP will be urging Parliamentarians to use the Bill to fix this once and for all.  We also believe that inspection of careers guidance in schools and colleges should be a more prominent part of Ofsted’s remit and if the guidance is inadequate, it should limit the overall grade outcome.”

In March’s budget the chancellor Rishi Sunak announced new ‘flexi-job’ apprenticeships that would enable apprentices to gain experience across a range of employers in their chosen sector. It also proposed new cash incentives for employers to take on apprentices.

The introduction of the apprenticeship levy in 2015 has seen apprenticeship starts decline rather than increase in its lifetime, with HR body the CIPD claiming it “failed on every measure”.

In 2019-20, the number of young people between 16 and 24 starting an apprenticeship dropped from 265,000 to 171,600.

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