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A growing proportion of young people are interested in starting an apprenticeship rather than going to university, but teachers are still unlikely to advise their high-attaining students to take this route new polling by the Sutton Trust indicates. 

Over 2,000 young people attending academies and maintained schools in England and Wales were surveyed by Ipsos MORI about their attitudes to apprenticeships. 

Around two-thirds (64%) said they would be very or fairly interested in starting an apprenticeship  for a job they wanted to do instead of going to university, a rise of nine percentage points from 2014 when 55% of young people said they were interested in this route.  A quarter (25%) of those polled in 2019 said they were not very or not at all interested in starting an apprenticeship. 

Previous research by the Sutton Trust found that the best apprentices – those with a level 5 qualification or higher – will earn £50,000 more in their lifetime than someone with an undergraduate degree from a university outside of the Russell Group. 

The polling highlights a disconnect between young people’s interest in apprenticeships and the advice they’re offered at school. 40% of the young people surveyed said their teachers had never discussed the idea of apprenticeships with them. However, the proportion saying they had discussed apprenticeships with their teacher is improving, up from 31% in 2014 to 41% this year.


Earn While You Learn  

The ability to earn while you learn, in order to fast-track your career, are two of the main reasons young people choose apprenticeships according to a recent survey carried out by Black Country based In-Comm Training.  

Aldridge based In-Comm, which supports over 2,000 learners every year, asked two cohorts of students for their opinions on vocational learning and the results were emphatic, with 95% of respondents feeling that undertaking an apprenticeship had helped accelerate their career. 

Furthermore, 90% would recommend it as an alternative to going to university, with HNC Higher Apprenticeships launched in the Autumn of 2019, to take budding engineers all the way to a degree. 

Bekki Phillips, Managing Director of In-Comm Training, stated, “There has been a massive change in attitudes towards vocational learning and that is reflected in the number of young people that are now choosing to go down the apprenticeship route as their ‘first choice’ and not as a backstop.  


“It has taken us a while to get to this position, but I think businesses and education have started to make real inroads into putting together a persuasive case for being an apprentice. 

“In addition to being able to apply learning to live manufacturing situations, we have estimated that doing an apprenticeship all the way through to degree level could be a £100,000 opportunity when you consider the wages you are paid and the tuition fees that you save." 

Over £7.5m has been spent on equipping the three In-Comm centres in Aldridge, Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury, with the latest CNC machinery, fluid power cells, 3D printing capability and metrology, not to mention hosting the National Power Press and Tooling Centre. 

Sir Peter Lampl, Founder of the Sutton Trust and Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said, “The best apprenticeships offer young people outstanding career prospects and financial rewards. So, it is good to see that a growing proportion see them as offering genuine alternatives to A-levels and degrees. However, we need to do much more to make sure teachers advise their students to opt for apprenticeships. This includes dispelling their view that apprenticeships are not of high quality and giving teachers access to the information they need.”