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Degree apprenticeships risk becoming the “preserve of the privileged”

One in four parents from the highest-paid social groups are familiar with degree apprenticeships, compared to just one in 10 from lower socio-economic backgrounds

Affluent parents are two-and-a-half times more likely than those less well-off to know about degree apprenticeship routes at university, leading to fears such programmes could become the “preserve of the privileged", according to research by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

The CMI’s survey of 1,004 UK parents of 11- to 18-year-old children found that overall parental awareness of degree apprenticeships has grown from 13% in 2016 to 20% in 2017. However, the gap in awareness between parents from different social groups suggests a growing difference between the educational attainment of school leavers from affluent and less privileged backgrounds.

One in four (26%) parents from the most highly-educated and highest-paid social groups are familiar with degree apprenticeships, compared to just one in 10 (10%) from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Petra Wilton, the CMI’s director of strategy and one of the architects of the chartered manager degree apprenticeship, warned of the impact this may have on applicants. “Parents are the biggest influence on their children’s career decisions, so a lack of parental knowledge will deprive promising students from all backgrounds of places on degree apprenticeships,” she said.

“We’re now in danger of higher apprenticeships quickly transforming from being perceived as an alternative route into employment for the less able, to being a highly attractive option out of reach to all but the elite. Schools and employers need to work with parents to raise awareness, challenge perceptions, and help all young people to consider this new route to a degree and employment.”

Penny Cobham, director general of The 5% Club (an organisation dedicated to encouraging employers to offer apprenticeships), warned that the UK is not developing the skills required to prevent shortages in the future.

“This excellent research demonstrates how important good careers advice is for young people,” she said. “Apprenticeships provide a huge range of qualifications and career opportunities. Students are missing out on the chance to enter the world of work, get qualified, and be paid at the same time. This lack of knowledge is detrimental to developing the skills we need to meet the UK’s current shortage and make our economy successful.”

“Degree apprenticeships are now at risk of becoming the preserve of the privileged,” Wilton warned.