Research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) suggests that over half of UK parents believe that an apprenticeship provides a better chance of getting a good job than going to university.
This is despite a 31 per cent decline in the number of people starting apprenticeships for this academic year compared to in 2016-17.
A survey of over 1,000 parents of 11 to 18-year-olds, carried out by the CMI, found that 57 per cent of respondents thought that apprenticeships offered a better chance of getting a good job and nearly half of parents (49 per cent) would encourage their child to start an apprenticeship rather than apply for university.
The majority of parents (52 per cent) cited the high costs of university education as a major factor in their preference for apprenticeships. Following A-Level results day last week, the government published a blog post reiterating its commitment to providing more “high-quality options” for 18-year-olds as it looks to fulfil its commitment of three million new apprenticeship starts by 2020.
Quoted in the same post, apprenticeships and skills minister Anne Milton backed apprenticeships as an alternative to higher education. “University has often been seen as the only route to a successful career,” she said, “but apprenticeships can be a great way to give you the skills you need to get the job you want.”
Despite the endorsement from the government and parents, according to latest figures, the number of people starting apprenticeships between August 2017 and May 2018, is down on the same period the previous year, going from 457,200 new starts to 315,900.
Rob Wall, head of apprenticeships at the CMI, said: “It’s clear that the government won’t hit its target of three million apprenticeship starts by 2020, and even Number 10 now seems to accept this.” He argued that in order for the number of apprenticeship starts to rise “apprentices and employers need to have confidence in the stability and sustainability of the system”.
The apprenticeship levy – a tax on UK employers to encourage more specific funds to be dedicated to apprenticeship roles – was launched by the government in 2017. Joe Dromey, a senior research fellow on employment and skills at IPPR, expects apprenticeship figures to pick up in the next few months as the expiration date for unspent levy funds approaches, but thinks that employers should be doing more to bridge any gaps in skills and training.
He said: “While the fall in apprenticeship starts is a cause for concern, we should avoid focusing on numerical targets alone, as the government have with their unwise and increasingly unachievable target.”
Dromey added: “There is a bigger picture here – the low and declining level of employer investment in skill. With productivity and pay having stalled for a decade, and with Brexit threatening to exacerbate skills gaps, it should be a cause for concern that UK employers invest half as much as the EU average. The government needs to do more to drive up employer investment in and utilisation of skills.”