Last updated: 12.11.14

Apprenticeships ‘beneficial to the UK’s economy’

Although the apprenticeship system continues to flourish, supporting the UK’s economy as it grows, more could be done by schools to provide comprehensive careers advice to pupils, according to a new report.

The study - undertaken by the  Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) - reveals that apprenticeships have the potential to drive growth by delivering the skills that Britain needs now and in the future.

However, it also suggests that school and employers need to do more to raise the profile of this type of vocation as there needs to be an increase in the uptake of apprenticeships, particularly in the IT and construction industries, to meet demand and deal with the skills shortage.

According to the report, while many young people see apprenticeships as a feasible alternative to studying for a degree at university, only 31 per cent said this route had been properly discussed with them at school. This finding suggests that attitudes towards this educational path desperately need to change in order to provide children with well-rounded careers advice.

Last week, Vince Cable, the business secretary, was addressed by a group of young apprentices at a reception in the House of Commons. They urged schools, colleges, businesses and the government to do more to put an end to the “academic snobbery among many careers advisers.”

John Coombes, a third year advanced engineering apprentice with Ford, explained that his decision to choose this particular career path was met with “derision”. He said he felt incredibly lucky to win his apprenticeship, which offered him the funding for his Bachelor's degree and secure employment, but his peers and teachers thought he had chosen the “lesser route.”

He continued: “This attitude was particularly apparent when I went to collect my sixth form certificate. All my colleagues were announced as having been to university and were loudly applauded. When my name was called out they said ‘this is John, he works for Ford.’ The room was almost silent. It wasn’t justified and that attitude needs to change.”

Mark Farrar, chief executive of AAT, told the Telegraph that there is an imbalance and apprenticeships must be advertised as another, equally respected, route into higher education. He said he wants to see career information strengthened in the future, which businesses themselves can assist in.

For those looking to further their understanding about potential career paths, Virtual College has created vocational open online courses (VOOCs) that have been designed to help individuals explore their options in an interactive and engaging manner.