This year ’ s A level results marked a highwater mark in regards to interest in apprenticeship degrees . UCAS CEO , Clare Marchant , said that for the first time more than 50 % of student enquiries to the clearing organisation were in relation to apprenticeship degrees . There is a shift in perception and understanding among the 17 + age group , as well as their parents , as to the value of these different kinds of qualification .
I believe that today ’ s students and their parents are beginning to realise that attending university for its own sake is not a guaranteed route to success , future career or social mobility . The only thing attending a university course is going to guarantee , for most undergraduates , is debt .
It ’ s hard to believe that in a digital world , which is driving increasing levels of personalisation in everything from TV show recommendations on Netflix to song suggestions and playlists on Spotify , the UK academic establishment is still predominately pushing a ‘ one size fits all ’ approach to tertiary education – university , university , university .
The focus on universities to the virtual exclusion of other learning or training options has contributed to a UK skills gap . The pandemic has brought the skills shortage within the UK into sharp relief . The most recent Open University Business Barometer showed that , despite a rise in the number of overall candidates , three in five employers are reporting that they are unable to attract the skills they require . The need is across all sectors , from engineering and digital to construction and health and social care .
A recent survey highlighted the link between business growth and training , with 71 % of businesses that had experienced growth in the last year having also increased their training budgets . In contrast , 61 % of businesses that did not either increase their training investments or have fully functional training plans reported declines in growth .
To better respond to the growing skills gap in the UK economy and help improve the efficiency of the workforce , we need to shake up the current status quo . We must look for a new model for how we prepare our young people for the wider working world .
The challenge is that schools are not giving the same weight and importance to the range of options available to students in regards to different routes to success . Youth Employment UK ’ S Youth Voice Census notes : ‘… young people are not being properly prepared for the breadth of opportunities post-16 , with evidence highlighting that academic qualifications are still discussed with pupils more frequently than vocational qualifications ’. A possible solution could be engaging with secondary students after a lesson to discuss related careers .
The ‘ Baker clause ’ was meant to address this issue . Authored by former education secretary , Kenneth Baker , and introduced in 2018 , the clause mandates schools to allow training providers access to their pupils to discuss technical and vocational education routes .
However , while mandated , the clause is not uniformly enforced nor are there any agreed consequences for noncompliance . This results in a patchwork approach to how vocational or technical training options are presented . To address this imbalance , a new report from the Education Select Committee has called for Ofsted to exclude schools from the top two grades if they fail to comply with the Baker Clause .
Another approach that is starting to gain traction is around the funding of careers advice in schools . There are now calls to also tie the funding to compliance with the ‘ Baker Clause ’. This idea was included in the Government ’ s latest Skills for Jobs white paper published in January .
And finally , more weight is being put behind this issue by Lord Baker himself , who is currently seeking to amend the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill to make his clause a statutory duty for schools .
So , we can hope that the schools of the future will be more open and inclusive in regards to the options they put in front of their pupils .
But schools are only one part of the landscape – employers need to be incentivised to offer more engaging and relevant apprenticeship opportunities . The Apprenticeship Levy , introduced in 2017 , was intended to create a new
I BELIEVE THAT TODAY ’ S STUDENTS AND THEIR PARENTS ARE BEGINNING TO REALISE THAT ATTENDING UNIVERSITY FOR ITS OWN SAKE IS NOT A GUARANTEED ROUTE TO SUCCESS , FUTURE CAREER OR SOCIAL MOBILITY .
Susanna Lawson , Co-Founder and CEO , OneFile
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