• Amanda Thomson
  • Sofie Lundberg
  • Sharon Walpole
Managing Director, Big Choice Group's Recruitment Division

Do you think schools are doing enough to promote apprenticeships to students?

Many schools I speak with would like to offer more support to their students to advise them better on the different career path alternatives to going to university. However, they simply do not have the resources available to hire in impartial careers advisers to mentor their students on this overwhelming topic. A large majority of our school careers advisers are dual or even ‘triple-hatted’ - they’re form tutors that also teach other subjects and so they’re extremely time-poor.

On top of this, many academic staff within Further Education have only worked within academia and therefore feel most comfortable discussing Higher Education as the next step in the career ladder. However, with all the will in the world, a teacher will still be challenged to be able to offer insights into all industry sectors, simply because the knowledge and time to do so is not there.

What is the biggest misconception parents have about apprenticeships?

The biggest misconceptions that parents have about apprenticeships are that they are limited to taking young people into manual labour or won’t pay a good salary. Another worrying misconception is that apprenticeships are taken as a last resort by less academic students who are not “bright” enough to go to university.

We need to take a more proactive approach to offer both parents & teachers advice into the different apprenticeship routes and how they can deliver fulfilling and professional careers, with qualifications and a salary to match that of any graduate - but minus the debt! Every year I’m impressed by the young talent that I meet who have been supported by their employers and are in professional roles, with real responsibility from year one.

How do apprenticeships compare to alternative career paths?

They can be a fast track into many professional sectors. For example, there are many apprenticeship schemes now that offer careers in industries that historically would have required a degree. The latest apprenticeship scheme I have heard about is into teaching, which will hopefully be a great way of educating students that you don’t need to go to university to have a professional career. Law and healthcare are other industries that have recently opened their doors to apprenticeships.

What advice would you offer parents trying to give their children a perspective on career options?

It’s easy to advice our children on career options based on our own experience. While that’s useful to do, read up around all the options that are available today and find out as much as you can before further advising your children. There are lots of free events, such as careers fairs, that you can attend with your children and both have the opportunity to ask employers face-to-face about the apprenticeship opportunities available. With the new apprenticeship levy coming into force next year, I anticipate more events like these will be taking place to help both students and employers.

What is your organisation doing to educate parents about apprenticeships as a viable career option?

BigChoice Group offer impartial careers advice and have free careers resources packs that are downloadable from the website to both parents and teachers. They offer clear guidance on apprenticeships across many industry sectors, with supporting case studies from students that are on an apprenticeship programme. The resources packs cover advice  from official industry bodies as well as employers, spanning lots of different industries from Agriculture, through to Quantity Surveying.

Find out more here: http://www.thebigchoice.com/School_College_Leavers/School_Leavers_Resource_Packs.html

Content Executive, Milkround

Do you think schools are doing enough to promote apprenticeships to students?

School is the ideal setting for young people to learn what their many different future career options are, including how to get there. Historically the focus has mainly been on university, however apprenticeships and similar schemes are gaining more ground and validity as an alternative to university. While the growth in popularity is great, there is always more that could be done, such as more contact with employers, more case studies from former or current apprentices, maybe even visits from former students that have gone on to be apprentices.

What is the biggest misconception parents have about apprenticeships?

That it is somehow a less ‘worthy’ way to begin a career and that their child will be unable to earn the same salary they would with a degree, neither of which is necessarily true. On the contrary, more and more employers are realising the benefits of training their employees from the beginning. Gone are the days when an apprentice only refers to blue collar jobs – nowadays you can become a software developer or even a solicitor through an apprenticeship scheme. It is a completely valid way to begin your career, and for some a much better option than university.

How do apprenticeships compare to alternative career paths?

Apprenticeships have many benefits you won’t find in any other career path. You get the opportunity to learn on the job and hone your skills while making valuable contacts. You also earn a salary while you learn, and get to begin your career without a large student loan hanging over your head. Once your apprenticeship has finished you will have a qualification that will be useful throughout your career, not to mention that by the time university students are graduating you will already have a few years of work experience under your belt!

What advice would you offer parents trying to give their children a perspective on career options?

Keep an open mind and look objectively at what your child is hoping to do for a living. There is a possibility that what your child is hoping to do does not require a university degree but could be reached just as well through an apprenticeship, saving them a large loan and allowing them to gain work experience while learning. Talk to the school and see what resources have and look at what schemes employers are offering – new ones are popping up all the time.

What is your organisation doing to educate parents about apprenticeships as a viable career option?

Milkround School Leavers strives to be a well-rounded hub available for students, teachers and parents. We have many online resources that will give parents a look into the numerous options for school leavers, and school leavers valuable advice on everything from how to revise efficiently to how to write your first CV. Our careers hub lets school leavers apply to higher and advanced apprenticeships, entry level jobs, gap years, and school and college leaver schemes. We also attend many career fairs around the UK where we are available to lend any support needed.

CEO, Walpole Media Group Ltd

Do you think schools are doing enough to promote apprenticeships to students?

Schools want to do the best by their students and are obliged to give relevant career information. This obligation has been placed on them but is not currently anything more than described by Government on what they ‘should do’. A recent announcement by Nicky Morgan suggests there will a legal requirement put in place requiring schools to provide information on vocational courses and about apprenticeships. The current issues they face is a serious lack of funding to provide this service. Many schools use current staff such as teachers to provide the service of career advice. At a recent conference, I was told by a PE teacher that he is tasked to provide career advice to over 100 students on his own with only one hour per student per year to do so. This is on top of his teaching schedule. Funding is also an issue. Schools with a sixth form are hard pressed to advise their pupils to take any other path that might lead them to leave their own institution. Bums on seats equal budgets. Unless that changes, it makes for a difficult conundrum for them.

What is the biggest misconception parents have about apprenticeships?

Parents only think about the appropriate qualifications for their children a points in the year when decisions need to be made e.g. GCSE choices, post-16 pathways… There is plenty of information about apprenticeships online, but as this is not being fed to them via schools, they are generally ill-informed and mistrusting about apprenticeships. The biggest misconception is that apprenticeships are for young people who are low achievers. This is simply not the case. For instance, to do a sought after Higher Apprenticeship, the grade requirements are similar to those required for university. Most parents do not realise that a Higher Apprenticeship leads to a degree, no debt, work experience and commitment from the business which took them on. Apprenticeships are a step into work, but most have classroom environments for the learning aspect and apprentices are encouraged to mix with each other. Due to the impending Apprenticeship Levy, businesses are taking apprenticeships very seriously. Some businesses are even closely their graduate programs in favour of starting or expending their apprenticeship provision. They view apprenticeships as their future work force.

How do apprenticeships compare to alternative career paths?

Like choosing a higher education course or a university, you need to take the time to look into the apprenticeship program to ensure it is right. Again, due to the Apprenticeship Levy and the Government target of 3 million new start apprenticeships by 2020, apprenticeships are quickly growing in number and in quality. Doing an apprenticeship straight from school is like going to work, but with support and continued training. It is a step to work, but also to further education and qualifications, not necessarily an end in itself. Career path now are more like a spider web rather than a linear path. Young people should be thinking more about the skills they gain and how they can be transferable. Apprenticeships provide employability skills as well as the skills required to the job - something much sought after by businesses who are tiring of new starts unable to cope in the workplace.

What advice would you offer parents trying to give their children a perspective on career options?

There is plenty of information available to learn more about all the options available. Schools should be providing access to careers advisers and independent career/qualifications information (in addition to the traditional uni routes). But there are a plethora of information available. www.notgoingtouni.co.uk has a vast library of videos available, like case studies. In addition, there is a sophisticated search function that will bring up blogs and articles providing quality information from the businesses themselves. www.movingonmagazine.co.uk has a hundreds of articles about careers and qualifications including: industry information, case studies, explanations of different routes through higher education, vocational routs and apprenticeships. It also has a Careerometer powered by LMI for All, a government statistical tool on salary and job prospects by job type in the regions across the UK. It is important to consider what the future landscape is for the career chosen.

What is your organisation doing to educate parents about apprenticeships as a viable career option?

Walpole Media Group includes Not Going to Uni and Moving On. As the CEO, I am the face of the company and frequently give talks to career advisers, colleges, learning providers and apprenticeship providers about apprenticeships. Recently I spent a morning talking to Oxfordshire County Council’s CEIAG providers about how they can get businesses into their organisations to speak to young people and their parents. Then later that day, I spoke to learning providers and businesses about how they can engage with schools. Not Going to Uni and Moving On exhibit regularly at career events such as The Skills Show. Moving On magazine is in print, as well as online, and is sent to every school, college and sixth form, providing full independent information about careers and qualifications. Parents can subscribe for an annual subscription. Print is still seen as a useful working document for parents, as well as teachers and career advisers.