The true value of apprenticeships

The true value of apprenticeships

The true value of apprenticeships


I will let you into a secret of mine. Ever since starting secondary education, I’ve thought university is not all its let on to be.

But that won’t stop the pretentiousness and snobbery found around large parts of academic institutions, from the back patting exercise for getting into university X, to the endless amounts of money you need to study, but still it’s virtually taboo to have an alternative view.

Many have left school with A Levels, going straight into employment opportunities, which principally are like apprenticeships, with a mix of workplace and classroom based learning sessions. Many of whom have and will go on to have exceedingly successful careers without ever stepping foot in a university.


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I’m in my mid-twenties, I decided I’d like to get a degree by the time I was thirty, primarily to see if it’s something I could do and the verdict is still out on that score. However having just started my degree in September I am thoroughly enjoying the course thus far.

What gets me peeved more than anything else is society’s assumption that university is supreme and ‘best’ for everyone. We should be giving at least the equivalent attention and support to young people who follow different career paths.

In our exam obsessed society, where a single letter results are the be all and end all and schools who are endlessly measured and tested, measured and tested, measured and tested before being pitted against one and other. With just a predictably low number of learners being identified as “gifted and talented”, I think it’s about time we awarded more credit to the skilled trades, arts and innovative thinkers. Minus them, we’d be screwed!

I have had enough with the middle class, elitist drivel that surrounds university like an iron fence, guarding superior artificial intelligence we dare not to query. I know like millions of others this is not the only path to development and enrichment, though I do accept it’s not the most well trodden route, it’s as if the very notion of hearing a different approach is second rate.


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Promisingly, in research released by the Edge Foundation and City & Guilds, it is clear that parents are making the relation between high-quality vocational training and employability. While the days of university degrees being the ‘golden ticket’ into secure and well paid employment are long gone, The survey of over 3500 parents shows 57 per cent said that a young person with a plumbing qualification or apprenticeship was ‘very employable’ – significantly higher than if they opt for a History, English or Foreign Languages degree.

While 72 per cent of employers said vocational qualifications are essential for improving the skills of young people and preparing them for work, with over half, 53 per cent ranking vocational qualifications as more valuable than academic qualifications. The research gathered views from 1000 small, medium and large businesses across England.

The number of apprenticeship starts decreased in 2013/14 by 14 per cent from the previous year. Meanwhile the construction sector is claiming a skills shortage is undermining the ability to deliver the governments housing targets and key infrastructure projects. While the logistic, food and health & social care sectors are facing similar recruitment difficulties.


apprenticeship start since 1997


So is anybody paying attention?  Or shall we continue to bury our heads in the sand about the ever looming skills gap?  We must wake up and smell the builder’s tea, see the bright warehouse lights and hear the cries of pain. It’s high time as a society, we appreciate the importance of apprenticeships, and employers investing more time and money into developing them right across the board.  Let’s sweep away the fear, that somehow skilled trades and vocational qualifications are in some way inferior to a graduate career , a perception which has shackled us for too long.

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