Young people prefer university to apprenticeships

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
February 15, 2010, 10:35 PM GMT+0

Apprenticeships are still lagging behind universities as the career-enhancing choice for young people, as career advice is found to be less than helpful in schools and colleges, a survey for the Electrical Contractors’ Association has found.

Despite this, apprenticeships are seen in an overwhelmingly positive light – especially among those who work full time. 84% of those polled felt that it was a good way to learn a trade and earn at the same time. And while just over a quarter (29%) of people at school and university age (16 to 24 year-olds) think apprenticeships are more relevant to the ‘real world of work’ than going to university, this figure shoots up to 40% among those who work full time – suggesting that the more actual work experience logged, the more people appreciate the value of hands-on training as opposed to the often theoretical, academic learning associated with university study.

Apprenticeship uptake remains low

But since university-age respondents felt differently, perhaps it is due to a lack of useful careers advice that the uptake of apprenticeships remains low. While 31% have found that the career guidance they have had in their life was helpful, almost double (60%) feel that the advice they received wasn’t useful, with 21% strongly believing that it hadn’t helped them at all.

That students feel that they are not provided with comprehensive advice perhaps denotes why so many potential apprentices don’t see apprenticeships as a viable option, despite their being paid (rare for other types of internships and almost unheard of for university courses) and representing a chance to gain concrete experience in a specific trade.

Even excluding the 31% of 16-17 year old respondents who definitely intend to go to university, 46% haven’t considered doing an apprenticeship, meaning that thousands of students are missing out on a potential avenue towards employment. Only 17% of those polled said they were considering doing an apprenticeship and very few (7%) of the 16-17 year olds asked were currently doing an apprenticeship.

This research comes at a time when fears are escalating about the future of the growing numbers of NEETs (young people of school-leaving age Not in Employment, Education or Training) and A-level students who are being denied the chance to go to university, as pressure for places increases and government funding is threatened with cuts.

With the majority (69%) feeling that the most important time for careers advice is at school or pre-university college, it seems that changing the type of advice given, and making school leavers aware of the options open to them, might change the future of thousands of otherwise lost youth.

Related story – Unemployed youths willing to work...but can't

For survey details and full results, please click here