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Are apprenticeships still overlooked by young people?

Misconceptions around apprenticeships are still influencing the decisions of young people in their career paths, according to research from accountancy and business advisory firm, BDO.

The survey of more than 1000 people across England found that more than half (51%) of people aged between 18-24 still believe that a university degree makes you more likely to earn a high salary than doing an apprenticeship.

The research also found that almost half (49%) believe that apprenticeships are better suited to those who don’t get high enough grades to go to university.

Looking at career progression, the survey found that some say an apprenticeship could have a negative impact. More than a third (34%) believe you are less likely to reach the most senior positions within a business if you do an apprenticeship rather than a university degree.

The survey also looked into attitudes of education providers and parents and guardians. Almost two thirds (62%) of respondents said their school or college encouraged them to go to university rather than apply for an apprenticeship. This figure was higher for young people based in Greater London (70%) and lowest for those based in the North East (55%).

More than half (55%) of respondents said their parents or guardians would prefer or have preferred them to go to university over an apprenticeship. The percentage of parents encouraging the university route increased for those from a Black or Asian heritage.  Almost three quarters (71%) of those from a Black heritage and 63% of those from an Asian heritage said their parents or guardians would prefer or have preferred them to go to university.

Whilst many believe that an apprenticeship may not lead to as highly paid job as a university degree, almost two thirds (64%) of those surveyed do believe that an apprenticeship is more likely to result in a permanent job once completed compared to a university degree.

Sarah Hillary, a partner at BDO commented on the findings: “Despite school leaver apprenticeships being a well-established route into many well-paid professions, including accountancy and law, our research demonstrates that there are still misconceptions about this career path. It is also concerning that more than a third believe doing an apprenticeship rather than a degree could be a barrier to reaching the most senior positions within a business.

“Whilst a university education is still a highly regarded achievement, it can also bring a significant amount of debt and additional costs. As the cost-of-living crisis continues to take hold, university may not always be the most attractive or accessible route for young people, particularly those from a lower socio-economic background.

“With this in mind, it is important to not just increase the number of quality apprenticeship positions but also raise awareness of how this type of training can create meaningful, sustainable careers whilst giving the opportunity to ‘earn while you learn’. This would be a step in the right direction to improving social mobility in the UK.”

A separate survey by BDO recently revealed that apprenticeships could be starting to be seen as a more appealing recruitment strategy with almost a third (29%) of the UK’s medium-sized businesses planning to hire more apprentices in a bid to attract more talent.

Sarah added: “It is promising to see more businesses offering apprenticeship positions to attract more talent. We must now continue to ensure that young people from all backgrounds, as well as those influencing their career decisions, are aware of the wealth of opportunities and career progression that quality apprenticeship programmes can provide.”

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