Taking apprenticeships to the next level

The second Interserve Society Report, launched this week, provides a detailed and revealing snapshot of the current attitudes young people, parents and employers have towards apprenticeships.

A little over a year ago I spoke to the Great Business Debate about our inaugural ‘Society Report’ and the results of our survey on public attitudes towards big business. It made for pretty uncomfortable reading on the whole, but there was one area that stood out as potential common ground and a good foundation on which to build. The positive views people held about the opportunities businesses create in their communities through jobs, training and, crucially, delivering apprenticeships. And the fact they wanted to see us do much more.

This year we decided to look in detail at what three important groups – young people, parents and employers – thought about apprenticeships. The Government’s commitment to deliver three million high quality apprenticeships by 2020 and the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017 has added more impetus to the issue and, indeed, our desire to better understand what the scale of the challenge is.

So what did this year’s research – conducted by Yougov – tell us? The main headlines, on the surface, echo some familiar themes. Young people about to leave school, parents with school age children and employers taking on new talent all tended to favour university as a route to a successful career, or university graduates over and above an apprentice when hiring new recruits. However, the extent to which these attitudes hold sway amongst the three groups and dominate current perceptions is striking. For example, only 7% of young people aged 13–18 surveyed expected to take up an apprenticeship when they left school, and this fell to just 2% of young people in London — the heartbeat of our economy. That shows we are still having very little impact on the attitudes of some of those people who represent the future of apprenticeships.

Infographic trio interserve

The research also showed minimal understanding, across all the groups, of higher and degree level apprenticeships. Given their relatively recent introduction that may not be surprising, but even when given a little more information, a significant proportion (particularly of young people and parents) said that they viewed them far more favourably. This, we believe, is particularly important as it shows that if more people knew more about the range of careers and quality of attainment levels that can be achieved through apprenticeships, attitudes would be significantly different.

In summary, the research shows that there is still a long, long way to go in shifting attitudes, but there is an appetite for the practical work-based skills an apprenticeship can deliver. That’s why our report calls for a concerted campaign to raise awareness, which is a consistent theme throughout. The Government’s ‘Get In. Go Far’ campaign and its recent re-launch is doing good work, but we believe others — including large businesses like Interserve – need to do more. This will include working much more proactively with schools, being much more vocal about how apprenticeships can lead to the top and putting apprenticeships firmly in place alongside other pathways that provide real career progression.

And as the main campaign starts to deliver a wide and varied message about the benefits of apprenticeships, we believe there should be a more concerted focus on areas where understanding is particularly low – for example around higher and degree level apprenticeships – or where attitudes seem staunchly entrenched – for example in London and the South East.

“There should be a more concerted focus on higher and degree level apprenticeships or London and the South East.”

I would encourage all those with an interest in apprenticeships and skills to take a look at the report – it gives us some great data to focus attention on and points to areas we can start to really make progress around in the months and years ahead.

To read Interserve Society Report: Apprenticeships: the path to success? See here.


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