Young people back apprenticeships to boost their career prospects

Less than a quarter of apprentices say teachers and education professionals advised them on vocational route into work.

More than three quarters of young people say going on an apprenticeship improved their skills and career prospects while four in five would recommend them to others, according to new research from YMCA.

Speaking as part of the youth charity’s Work in Progress report – released ahead of the government’s new Apprenticeship Levy that will help secure funding for three million apprenticeship starts over the course of this Parliament – young people overwhelmingly backed the benefits of a vocational route into work.

In fact, almost four in five young people (79 per cent) say they were offered a job at the end of their apprenticeship while more than three quarters say it helped to improve their responsibilities (77 per cent), satisfaction (78 per cent) and salary (81 per cent) when in the workplace.

However, despite the positive prospects they afford, young people also highlight a number of concerns around apprenticeships, including the perception of them as a second class route to work with less than one in four (22 per cent) receiving information on them from teachers and lecturers.

Do apprenticeships help?

Young people also spoke of the difficulties they had covering basic living costs while on the schemes as well as coping with work-study balance. YMCA found that many had no choice but to study at home and on weekends during their apprenticeship due to a lack of time in core working hours.

Denise Hatton, chief executive of the National Council of YMCAs in England and Wales, says, ‘Apprenticeships are a great way for young people to earn while they learn the necessary skills needed for today’s job market and our findings are proof that they are a positive experience for the majority.

‘Not only do they prepare young people for the workplace but they also provide effective routes into employment with almost 80 per cent of respondents to our research being offered a job at the end of their apprenticeship.’

Hatton adds, ‘However, while we welcome the government’s focus on investing in the value of apprenticeships, we believe there is still room for improvement.

‘Young people need better careers advice in schools to open up further options to them, a more realistic work-study balance that protects them from exploitation and improved support from employers to help them afford basic living costs. By putting these provisions in place, more young people will rightfully see apprenticeships as the progressive option our research has proven them to be.’

Arron, 21, from Nottingham, is currently doing an apprenticeship in rail infrastructure. He says, ‘A lot of young people aren’t bothered about apprenticeships; they believe that apprenticeships are useless. [But] I have done the apprenticeship and I went to college and, in my opinion, you benefit and learn a lot more from an apprenticeship.’

Catherine, 18, from Swansea, adds, ‘In school, it was like you had to go to college and you had to go to university. Apprenticeships were seen for the people who didn’t have brains to go and do. I don’t think that’s right, it’s just a different skill.’

More than 400 young people with experience of apprenticeships aged 16 to 26 years old and from across England and Wales fed into Work in Progress. Other findings include:

· Almost two thirds of young people (63 per cent) were left to search the internet to find out about apprenticeships.

· More than a third of young people (34 per cent) feel more could be done to improve the amount of support and advice available prior to undertaking an apprenticeship.

· A third of former apprentices (34 per cent) said they would have liked to have spent more time studying while almost a quarter (24 per cent) said they found it difficult to balance study and work elements of their apprenticeships.

· More than one third of young people (35 per cent) say the salary they received while on an apprenticeship was enough to cover basic living costs.

Further reading on apprenticeships

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