· News

Misperceptions present substantial barriers to apprenticeships

Two seperate surveys suggest a lack of information prevents some candidates from applying

Misperceptions present a substantial barrier to apprenticeships, according to separate research from Prudential and AECOM, both released to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week.

Prudential’s study found that despite an average weekly wage of £257 the majority of school leavers (85%) thought apprentice pay averaged less than £200 per week, and 4% believed apprentices work for free.

More than a quarter (29%) of 16- to 18-year-olds in the UK reported the information about apprenticeships in their school or college was ‘poor’, ‘very poor’ or ‘non-existent', compared with just 6% who said the same about information regarding university.

AECOM found that almost one in four (23%) apprentices said a lack of information and awareness about the benefits of apprenticeships in schools is the biggest obstacle to people choosing them. Just over one in five (21%) claimed low availability of apprenticeships was the biggest challenge.

Some respondents said that they viewed apprenticeship schemes as inferior to degrees (32%), while a lack of awareness about what apprenticeships entail discouraged 28%.

Paul McCormick, managing director of transportation, UK & Ireland and continental Europe, at AECOM, began his career as an apprentice. “I know first-hand that apprenticeships are a proven, viable route into the infrastructure and built environment sector,” he said, adding that more needs to be done to convince good candidates that apprenticeships offer a meaningful and rewarding career path. “We employ more than 300 apprentices and plan to hire 150 new apprentices this year – more than ever before. Attracting high-quality candidates is therefore key.”

Cathy Lewis, executive director of corporate services at Prudential, said more needs to be done to bring perceptions of apprenticeships in line with the reality. “As apprenticeship programmes become more widely available across different industries and sectors, an increasing number of young people are recognising their value, but there is still some way to go before we reach a truly level playing field,” she said.

“The good news is that much work is already being done to promote apprenticeships, with the government’s commitment to three million new starts by 2020 and new apprenticeship standards being developed by employer 'trailblazers'. Initiatives such as National Apprenticeship Week also play a pivotal part in raising the profile of the opportunities available to those seeking a viable alternative to higher education.”

National Apprenticeship Week (NAW 2016) is co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service. Organisations across the country will be holding events designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have.