Apprenticeship starts still below potential

graduate celebrate

Universities UK have recently published a survey of almost 1000 school leavers, looking to understand the level of understanding young people have of apprenticeships and in particular degree apprenticeships. 80% of respondents were unaware they could gain a free university education through an apprenticeship. Fees for these qualifications are paid out of the apprenticeship levy  

Universities that have signed up to offer degree apprenticeships include Cambridge, Russell Group Universities (24 leading UK universities which are committed to maintaining the very best research, teaching & learning experience and links with business and the public sector) and over 100 others. Those who enrol, work for their sponsoring employer part-time and study the rest of the time; earning a salary in addition to graduating without paying fees. A survey by Universities UK showed that only 7% of the pupils in years 10 and 12 knew how this system worked and 27% said a degree obtained that way was inferior to one studied for full time.

Our Youth Census Report 2019 surveyed 3000 young people between 14 and 24 and showed that Apprenticeship awareness is on the rise with 83% having apprenticeships discussed with them. However of those young people currently in college or sixth form, 6% of 16 year olds and 9% of 17 year olds are planning an apprenticeship as their next step. Young people aged 19 or over, are more likely to indicate that an apprenticeship is their next move of choice, with 23% of 19 year olds and 31% of 22 year olds suggesting this is the route they are planning to choose, or have already chosen. Taken with the Universities UK data, our data seems to show a potential lack of value for the Apprenticeship scheme.

The survey notes,  “In contrast, the vast majority (89%) of employers say that degree apprenticeships attract high calibre learners and that degrees equip apprentices with the knowledge and skills needed in a rapidly changing economy.” Some of the Youth Friendly Employers working with us such as McDonalds, EY and Coca- Cola EP are developing really exceptional pathways at degree level, so we are working to attract as many young people as possible into considering apprenticeships as a valuable opportunity to learn & work for a salary and obtain applicable skills in the job economy.

The survey names a young person enrolled in the scheme who reported that teachers tried to dissuade them from following this path, feeling that schools want to maximise the number of students going to university through the conventional route.

New apprenticeship numbers overall dropped dramatically after the levy scheme was introduced in April 2017. Although the latest apprenticeship figures, released last week, showed a 7.1% increase in starts for the first three quarters of the 2018/19 academic year, this was 29.3% down on the same period in 2016/17.

Universities UK is recommending a government-led campaign to promote the benefits of degree apprenticeships to employers and the public, including better careers information and guidance at an earlier age in schools. The Youth Employment UK website is now bringing in over 70,000 visitors per month, offering careers & learning advice to young people through our Careers Hub and Young Professional skills programme, whilst supporting “Youth Friendly” employers to promote their brand and opportunities on our careers platform.  


Youth Employment UK Commentary

Apprenticeships can and should be playing a vital role in the fight for social mobility, they provide young people with the chance to earn, learn and gain valuable work experience. One of the challenges we are hearing about is getting the balance right of the supply and demand. Young people are becoming more aware of apprenticeships as a viable opportunity and are keen to know about all of their options, but there are still not enough apprenticeships in every part of the country at all levels to ensure there is a pathway for every young person.

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