Charlotte Flatman, Head of Learning & Development at SVC Solutions, looks at how the rise of apprenticeships is changing the landscape of the jobs market.
There was a time when further education at a recognised university was a guarantee of a job for life and a career pathway that would assure you of a good standard of living.
More recently the picture of further education has changed quite dramatically. Tuition fees were first introduced in 1998 under Tony Blair’s famous mantra of ‘education, education, education’. The scale of those fees has gradually increased over time, with the intention of improving the standards of further education across the board.
While the number of people accessing further education has increased dramatically, there has not necessarily been an equal development in the breadth and quality of degree courses, resulting in graduates leaving university without the same assurances of solid career prospects.
Covid has also had a significant impact, bringing with it a rapid adoption of the video conferencing technology which continues to influence the approach to learning. This has further hit the perceived value of a university education, both in terms of the practical opportunities for learning as well as a less obvious contribution to social and personal development.
These considerations have contributed to a rethink for school leavers, and for many students who might have thought a degree course at university was the only option, apprenticeships have started to enter their thinking as a very attractive option.
According to government figures more than 5.3 million apprentices have started their apprenticeship journey since 2010, and this has been a trend across a wide range of different industries, from health to business and from engineering to technology.
And the trend is for that to increase at a quickening rate. In the 2021/22 academic year, there were 740,400 people participating in an apprenticeship in England, with 349,200 apprenticeship starts. That’s an increase in the number of apprenticeship starts of 9% compared to the previous academic year.
At SVC Solutions we have definitely noticed how the uptake in apprenticeships has been higher, alongside a much greater understanding of how not everyone’s career choice requires the academic environment of studying at university.
There is funding available for apprenticeships, which helps the scheme to work well for both employers and employees. For apprenticeships to work at their best, it is important that the employee takes the opportunity to gain experience and knowledge, but it’s also vital that the employer sees an apprentice as a potential long-term member of the team and not just short-term cheap labour.
We see graduates leave university and find it difficult to find work, certainly in their intended field. Apprenticeships are often more flexible and there are even grades of apprenticeships that can take you all the way to a degree qualification. You can take up an apprenticeship at any stage of life and there are opportunities available in some very specialist skill areas, if you know where to look.
In the coming years we would expect to see further growth in the role apprenticeships play across the jobs market, which could provide an exciting opportunity for employers and employees that are ready to take it.