Last week saw the triumphant return of National Apprenticeship Week, now in its seventh profile-raising year. The twittersphere was buzzing with talk of the contribution apprentices make to the economy, the positive benefits for young people and the businesses that employ them, and the ways in which these successes can be expanded even further. Everyone from Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Ed Miliband to Nora Senior, President of the British Chambers of Commerce was singing the praises of apprenticeships; music to our ears.
“People pursuing vocational education are just as bright, just as innovative, just as ambition, and just as go-getting as any undergraduate you will find”
Nick Clegg MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of The Liberal Democrat Party
It’s common knowledge that experience goes a long way in the workforce and, as Nick Clegg MP rightly pointed out, choosing not to go to university is in no way choosing not to advance your career. In fact, according to Office of National Statistics (ONS) statistician Jamie Jenkins, “the transition from education to joining the workforce may be more difficult without any prior work experience, which can help develop skills not learned on an educational course”.
The skills gap was also highlighted in a recent Telegraph article on UK youth unemployment, which highlighted the unfortunate reality that employed 16 to 24 year olds, whether in full or part time work, are likely to be in some of the lowest skilled roles. With their mix of earning and learning, apprenticeships are a tried and tested means of countering the trend towards unskilled, low paid jobs for young people who have chosen not to pursue a university education.
“I want it to be the new norm for young people to either go to university or into an apprenticeship… We need to look at how we can expand apprenticeship opportunities so that they are available to all young people who are ready and eager to take them up and aspire to get ahead in life”
David Cameron MP, Prime Minister and Leader of The Conservative Party
As we build towards the general election and politics becomes increasingly partisan, the consensus surrounding apprenticeships, and the cross-party support for such schemes, as seen in the Youth Unemployment APPG, is a strong indication of the huge benefits apprenticeships can bring to all involved.