Too few apprenticeships

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Not enough teenagers are starting apprenticeships because of poor careers guidance, according to a report by the Skills Commission.

The Skills Commission's report claims teachers, as the main source of careers guidance, must be better trained in apprenticeships and that an expansion of the apprenticeship programme must not come at the expense of quality. However, the findings suggest a majority of teachers rate their knowledge of apprenticeships as poor.

The government has a target of one in five young people becoming apprentices. Although the number of apprentices is rising, only 130,000 businesses out of 1.3m actually take them on.

The report says very few apprentices are currently progressing into higher education or advanced further education, suggesting most apprentices move on to employment rather than further training.

Its major concerns are about how to monitor quality as the programme expands, and how to ensure teachers are more aware of the types of apprenticeships available.

It also says those offering careers guidance must regularly visit local employers to inform themselves about the local jobs market.

Barry Sheerman, Skills Commission chairman, said: "We want to ensure the long-term prosperity and continued success of apprenticeships and, during this time of economic downturn, securing quality vocational routes for young people is ever-more important."

However, the government says it is beginning to roll out a programme of teacher briefing sessions which is expected to reach 50,000 teachers. The program will cover the range of 14-19 education and training options available.

New research by independent education foundation, Edge reveals that more than half (56 per cent) of the teachers surveyed rate their knowledge of Apprenticeships as poor – a real concern given young people rely on teachers for informed and impartial careers advice. By contrast, only one in twelve of teachers (8 per cent) say they have a poor understanding of university degrees. 

Furthermore, just one in four teachers (24 per cent) believes Apprenticeships are a good alternative to A-Levels or equivalent qualifications. Parents are much more likely to see Apprenticeships as a good alternative to A levels – 43 per cent of parents surveyed support this view. This will come as a surprise to many teachers – only 17 per cent of teachers think parents see Apprenticeships as a good alternative to A levels.

Andy Powell, chief executive of Edge, said: “Teachers are one of the main sources of careers advice to young people so it is a real travesty that they don’t have a good knowledge of Apprenticeships, or the value placed on this form of learning by parents. The fact that teachers have admitted they have a good knowledge of University degrees highlights the deep-seated bias towards academic qualifications within our education system. 

“We strongly believe that apprentices will play an integral role in helping the UK survive and thrive in the current economic climate. More than 100,000 Apprenticeships are completed every year. This figure could be much higher if teachers really understood the value and benefits of Apprenticeships.


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