NUS Exclusive: Apprenticeships (2013)

Whilst at the NUS student media summit today, Vibe Media were given a first glance at staggering new research that has emerged in regards to apprenticeships. This is a breaking press release, given only to the students at this conference, heard at the Amnesty International HQ in London, a whole 24 hours before it will be released to the national press!
This research, commissioned externally and conducted between October of last year, and February 2013, shows an incredible lack of support, advice and guidance for those who wish to go into an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships do not suit everyone’s career plans, learning styles or skills, however, for those that are best suited to this, they are being misguided, or not guided at all, in their post 16 choices.

Every school, college and university is required to have a careers service, however, these are not under any form of inspection or legislation to ensure that students are all being given the best advice and guidance for their personal circumstances. However, this research shows that 50% of current university students were never given apprenticeships as an option from their careers team. Many of these students will leave university with their shiny new degrees, and find that doors to jobs are locked because of lack of experience. This has lead to a growing trend in university students contemplating apprenticeships after their degree, with 20% of current students claiming that they feel that one of the only ways into a


career after university is through an apprenticeship.

So why isn’t everyone doing an apprenticeship? The apprenticeship minimum wage is £2.65 p/h, around £4 less than the average minimum wage for over 21 year olds. If this wasn’t shocking enough, the research shows that in some sectors, even this minimum wage is often not being met by ‘employers’, and yet this is still not being challeng


On paper, this is not enough money for a post 16 school leaver to live on, even with some support of their parents, however, a lot of apprenticeships are undertaken by over 25s, often with families, looking for a way back into education, whilst supporting dependants.
These people are being let down by education and the government when they are trying to get themselves  back up, and yet we wonder why some people find that their only option is to sign on to job seekers  allowance? Why would I work, to earn less than I need to support myself, when I could earn more,  without a job at all? This failure to make education truly accessible for all is going against everything that  this country claims to stand for!

Even with this minuet pay packet, there is still a gender pay gap. The highest paid apprenticeships (and  please remember, when I say ‘highest paid’ I am still referring to less than £3 an hour…) tend to be in  generally male dominated sectors such as construction and engineering, which has upwards of 70% male  participants. And the lowest paid? Health and social care & hairdressing of course, which are still  generally populated by women at large.

Toni Pearce, NUS president, who herself did not take the university route, and yet stands as a leader  today, said at the summit:

“Education has changed, and the old route that ends with a three year full time undergraduate degree no  longer needs to be norm. The lack of proper careers advice about the available study options and  pathways to work is failing young people. Students need the information and tools to thrive, whatever their learning journey.

“We need a no holds barred review of information, advice and guidance to ensure that it is fit for purpose,  for the twenty first century and fit the realities of students’ lives”

From personal experience, I was vaguely told about apprenticeships at school; told that they were for those who “struggle academically” that I was “too good” to “waste my life” on such a thing. So the person  who will fix my boiler when it inevitably breaks again, the team who built the engine in the car I ride in,  my hairdresser who aims to revive my dye-damaged hair, are not as good as me because of the  educational paths we took?! But who can say I will end up with a job when I leave university next year, or  will I have to take an apprenticeship too…?


The facts & figures:

– Less than five per cent of higher education students felt that apprenticeships did not provide high quality training, however, over half felt that were not as valued as highly as other forms of education.

– 19% of apprentices in the survey had not entered their first choice apprenticeship. The two most common reasons for this were that they had found better employment opportunities in other sectors or that they were unable to fund available opportunities in the sectors of their choice.

– 21% of apprentices had never received any information about apprenticeships from a careers service in a school, college or university. In contrast to this only three per cent of apprentices had received no information from Internet sources.

– The guidance received from career services (at university) was often of a poor standards. 46% rated it as barely acceptable or very poor.

All facts and figures provided by the NUS, 2013.

Please feel free to comment and let us know your view. Were you told about apprenticeships? Would you consider an apprenticeship after your degree?


Originally Published on VibeMedia, August 2013

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