Why are apprenticeships on the rise?

Apprenticeships help employers grow the talent they need and give young people a strong foundation to build the skills they’ll need now and in the future.

Why are rise large

Interest in apprenticeships is growing - apprentice numbers are expected to rise by 59% this year alone. Part of this will be down to the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy encouraging businesses to offer more apprenticeships, but arguably a greater drive is young people searching for career pathways that work for them. 

Whilst 95% of parents believe more young people doing an apprenticeship would be a good thing, parents say they don’t know enough about alternatives to university — 65% say they didn’t feel ‘wholly informed’. A third of parents said that if their child wasn't getting a degree, they simply didn't talk about career prospects at all. These results point to a lack of widespread understanding about today's routes into the workplace.

This might be partly due to perceptions that apprenticeships are only for trades. However, with apprenticeships now routinely offered in sectors as diverse as engineering, law, accountancy, research and development, marketing and management, this is clearly no longer the case. Many businesses also encourage apprentices to pursue other professional qualifications whilst they’re working — an opportunity to further boost their skills. 

For one former EY apprentice, early parenthood had spurred her to reflect on whether university was the right choice. “Becoming a mum at 18 focused my thinking around work, money and university. My priorities were to earn and get some professional qualifications. I didn’t feel I could afford to spend three years getting a degree.” She is now a Partner in the company.

There are a number of reasons young people may prefer to look into an apprenticeship as a path to work. Apprenticeships give young people the chance to learn while they earn, because apprenticeships are paid. Many companies will also fund apprentices to pursue other relevant qualifications, accommodating their study needs around work, or offer specific ‘degree apprenticeships’, combining the two in a structured way.

Increasing university fees, too, may play a part. This year, UK student fees increased to £9,250 per year. Debt from study is also proving more difficult for young people to handle. UK student debt surpassed £100 billion in June 2017, having doubled from £50 billion in just four years. It is predicted to double again in just six years. 

Meanwhile, the growing ‘skills gap’ in the UK — a lack of skilled workers and managers — is also making apprenticeships more enticing to young people entering the job market, as businesses launch programs to seize and develop fresh talent. After Brexit, nurturing homegrown talent will be even more important. 

A university degree will likely always be of value in the workplace. However, the perception that university is the only route to a fulfilling working life – especially in professional services and business – is rapidly changing. Apprentice schemes value, perhaps most importantly, hard work and diverse experience — making them increasingly a top choice for young people and employersto develop the skills they need to succeed.

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Jack Flanagan
  • Jack Flanagan

About the author

Jack Flanagan writes for regional and national titles on business and an eclectic range of subjects. He is based between Berlin and London.