Politics 6 May 2013 Micro-level policy is sometimes the hardest to get right Our education system still funnels people towards universities. Sign up for our weekly email * Print HTML It's rare you come across a completely obvious policy prescription which ought to be implemented immediately and would be unlikely to be opposed by anyone of any political bent, but this from Tyler Cowen is one: College students even get discounts at the movie theater; when was the last time you saw a discount for an electrical apprentice? Of course, nothing perfect remains so for long, and the problem here is that student discounts are a thing of civil society, not government policy. Companies decide whether or not to offer them, and then decide what forms of evidence to accept as proof that a customer is a student; and most of the widely accepted student cards, like NUS and ISIC, aren't state-backed. (The government might have more lobbying ability to get apprenticeship co-ordinators to issue "student" cards, but no guarantee that those cards would be accepted). But the wider point is worth bearing in mind: the structure of our education system is still built around a 3-year full time undergraduate degree immediately, or shortly after, leaving school, and that's true for little things as much as it is for the general structure of society. If you're an apprentice, it's harder to get subsidised loans to pay for your education; it's harder to get subsidised accommodation if your apprenticeship is away from home; there are fewer companies aiming entry-level positions explicitly at you; there's no co-ordinated national entry scheme; and so on. It's not quite a case of "look after the pennies and the pounds will watch themselves" – fixing all of those things wouldn't solve anything if there wasn't also an effective nationwide apprenticeship policy backing them up – but it certainly underpins quite how hard it is to turn around the ship of state. › Bogus psychometric tests for jobseekers were used without permission An apprentice blows glass in Germany. Photograph: Getty Images Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter. Subscribe from just £1 per issue More Related articles Why Philip Hammond's Budget headache will become Theresa May's Brexit nightmare Theresa May is running out of pain-free ways to to keep her promises When it comes to Brexit, is the City a help or a hindrance?