09Challenge 7: Young people and their parents do not see apprenticeships as a viable career prospect

The word ‘apprenticeship’ carries a familiarity which is a great strength to the brand. However, it is also one of the biggest problems facing uptake in apprenticeships, as people – and particularly young people and their parents – often have false assumptions about what an apprenticeship can offer. Often, young people and their parents tend to think of apprenticeships and vocational education as being second-choice routes for young people not able to secure university places.73 A recent Demos survey of 1,000 parents of 15 and 16 year-olds found that while 92 percent of parents believed apprenticeships to be a good option, only 32 percent said that they would want their child to undertake one.74

This is partly a result of years of government policy which placed universities at the top of the skills agenda. But it also represents more deep-seated perceptions about the value of vocational education which are not helped by a lack of information about what an apprenticeship actually is.75 One study found that 1 in 10 school leavers in Scotland thought that apprenticeships offered no recognised qualification, and one in three said that information about opportunities provided by their school or college was poor or non-existent.76

There are also few incentives for schools to improve information and guidance on apprenticeships. The Ofsted checklist for education providers, for example, does not include a requirement for information and support around apprenticeships, meaning that schools do not prioritise this in the careers curriculum.73 And while schools are required to report on progression into higher education, there are no similar requirements for progression to apprenticeships.73

Case study 14: Plymouth Apprentice Ambassador Network: using apprentices to share experiences and information through schools

The Plymouth Apprentice Ambassador Network, which is a member of the 1000 Club (see page 23), is a collaboration of employers and training providers across the city which supports current and ex-apprentices to share their experiences with schools and colleges. It aims to improve young peoples’ knowledge and perception of apprenticeships, which is particularly important in Plymouth, where demand from businesses for apprentices outstrips the supply – particularly in engineering and manufacturing, business, administration and law, and construction.79

Ambassadors receive training to be able to share information that extends beyond their own apprenticeship experience, and go into schools in order to share their knowledge with pupils, teachers and parents.73

However, the 1000 Club partners recognise that to reach the city’s target of a 25 percent increase in apprenticeships by 2020, more needs to be done to engage with schools and parents in Plymouth. This includes making substantial changes to the careers advice and guidance provided in schools. They are currently compiling an information pack for parents which provides details on apprenticeships available across the city and the progression routes to demonstrate how they can be a legitimate career pathway.

They also recognise that real progress in the approach taken by schools will require changes in how schools are assessed, a requirement for schools to report on numbers progressing into apprenticeships as well as on to university, and changes to the contents of careers guidance.73

Case study 15: The Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Gold Standard: establishing minimum standards for Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG)

CEIAG was identified as a priority when the Humber LEP was formed in 2011. The LEP, which is also highly proactive in building up awareness and knowledge of apprenticeships across the region (see below), introduced the Humber Gold Standard quality mark for excellence as a means to recognise high quality, impartial CEIAG and to drive up standards where provision was inconsistent or absent. The Gold Standard is mapped against existing national frameworks but is differentiated according to the input of local employers. The LEP is planning to work with Careers England to have the framework nationally accredited.

Previously, careers advice from some schools in the area was sector specific and tended to focus on traditional jobs rather than all occupational areas. Employers believed that the inconsistency of CEIAG was contributing to hard-to-fill vacancies, as young people were not recognising apprenticeship vacancies as relevant to their interests. By shifting the focus of careers advice in schools towards occupational pathways, and working alongside agencies such as Jobcentre Plus, more young people have been following apprenticeship and learning pathways that match their career objectives.

Schools, colleges and training providers have been proactively involved in the scheme, and their feedback has focussed particularly on the challenge of changing parents’ attitudes towards apprenticeships away from the perception that apprenticeships are a low attainment route with low career prospects. The LEP has supported this approach by attending parents’ evenings and giving presentations.

So far the quality mark has been offered to 50 schools and colleges and schools are starting to see some shifts in perception of apprenticeships, and further investment has been secured to extend the scheme to additional partners.82

Case study 16: Greater Manchester Apprenticeship Hub: adopting various approaches to information and guidance in schools

The Greater Manchester Apprenticeship Hub was set up in 2012 and is a partnership involving a wide range of stakeholders including the ten Greater Manchester local authorities, the Chamber of Commerce, New Economy, the Skills Funding Agency, the National Apprenticeship Service and JobCentre Plus.

The Hub was set up with three main objectives, one of which was the provision of information, advice and guidance (IAG) to young people in Greater Manchester. In January 2016, there were 18 projects commissioned by the Hub around three main themes:

  • Quality awards and professional development support, including Inspiring IAG, a nationally accredited CEIAG award which provides a framework for careers provision in schools, and the Better Choices, Better Outcomes school leadership programme that challenged poor cultural perceptions of CEIAG within schools;
  • Information advice and guidance, including the Apprenticeship Ambassador Programme, which sends apprentices into schools to share their experiences about being an apprentice with pupils, teachers and parents
  • Employability skills, including Skilled and Ready, an award for schools which replicates the activities of employers in schools to share some of the experience of taking on an apprenticeship.

Additionally, the ‘See Things Differently’ marketing and communications campaign is an outreach project which aims to transform perceptions about apprenticeships. The project has incorporated results day flashmobs, a Greater Manchester bus tour and an apprenticeship float as part of Manchester Pride 2015.83

The impression locally is that through these initiatives, young people are becoming more aware of apprenticeships as an option, and that there is a growing confidence that they can compete with degrees as a route into work.73

An evaluation of the Greater Manchester IAG projects during 2015 found that 119 of 221 schools who were approached about information workshops attended, and of these, 82 per cent then participated in one or more projects. On the whole, the schools who took part benefitted from the project, and considered the time that they invested worthwhile, particularly in Inspiring IAG, which helped draw together and develop existing IAG offers in schools. While there is little data available on whether the scheme has led to increased uptake, some schools have seen an increase in interest in apprenticeships – one school had around 10 expressions of interest compared to 2 or 3 in previous years.

There were challenges in the delivery of IAG: finding time in the busy school day to provide services and for providers to engage with staff was often difficult, and engagement was particularly challenging in schools which struggled with performance issues more generally.85 More recently, local partners have reported that the quality awards and professional development programmes have led to a demonstrable shift in the cultural perception of CEIAG within schools.73

The case studies illustrate how schemes which support direct intervention in schools to support information, careers advice and guidance can have a positive effect on boosting apprenticeship applications. However, results from these approaches can be mixed and take a long time to embed, with some local schemes reporting that they may not provide value for money.73


  • 73 Centre for Cities interview
  • 74 Demos (2015) The Commission on Apprenticeships. London: Demos. http://bit.ly/1MtOAAj
  • 75 Blunkett, D (2001) Education into employability: The role of the DfEE in the economy. http://bit.ly/20B66oo
  • 76 Bennett, G (2016) Wrong ideas that lead to lost chance of a career. The Times Online. http://bit.ly/20B653T
  • 77 Centre for Cities interview
  • 78 Centre for Cities interview
  • 79 Plymouth City Council (2015) Plymouth Skills Analysis. http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/lseskillsanalysispres.pdf
  • 80 Centre for Cities interview
  • 81 Centre for Cities interview
  • 82 Centre for Cities interview
  • 83 GMCA, Greater Manchester Apprenticeships Hub. http://theapprenticeshiphub.co.uk/the-apprenticeship-hub-is-here/
  • 84 Centre for Cities interview
  • 85 Cambridge Policy Consultants (2015) Evaluation of Manchester Apprenticeship Hub: Improving Careers Education Information Advice and Guidance. http://bit.ly/20B6seK
  • 86 Centre for Cities interview
  • 87 Centre for Cities interview