Around two thirds of young people are interested in starting an apprenticeship rather than going to university, but teachers are still unlikely to advise their high-attaining students to take this route, according to a new poll of teachers and young people by the Sutton Trust educational charity.
Over 2,000 school pupils aged 11 - 16 years in England and Wales were surveyed about their attitudes to apprenticeships by Ipsos MORI. Nearly two-thirds (64%) said they would be very or fairly interested in starting an apprenticeship for a job they wanted to do instead of going to university.
The results highlight the disconnection between young people's interest in apprenticeships and the advice they're offered at school: 40% of the young people surveyed said their teachers had never discussed the idea of apprenticeships with them.
Previous research by the Sutton Trust found that the best apprentices - those with a level 5 qualification or higher - earn £50,000 more in their lifetime than someone with an undergraduate degree from a university outside of the Russell Group.
However, separate polling of 1,246 teachers by the National Foundation for Educational Research found that just a fifth (21%) would advise a high performing student to opt for an apprenticeship. Almost two-thirds (64%) of secondary school teachers said they would rarely or never advise students with good grades to take this route.
Of those unlikely to advise their students to start an apprenticeship, over a third (36%) said it was down to a lack of information about apprenticeships in general and in relation to the options available to their students. Just over a quarter (28%) thought their students had better career prospects at university, while 14% cited negative views about the quality of apprenticeships on offer.
Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust and Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: "The best apprenticeships offer young people outstanding career prospects and financial rewards. So it is good to see that a growing proportion see them as offering genuine alternatives to A-levels and degrees.
“However we need to do much more to make sure teachers advise their students to opt for apprenticeships. This includes dispelling their view that apprenticeships are not of high quality and also giving teachers access to the information they need.”
Graham Cooper, site manager at Agfa Graphics and a member of the Leeds Manufacturing Alliance, said: "The report from the Sutton Trust sadly reflects the experience of many manufacturing companies in Leeds. The majority of teachers are simply unaware of the opportunities modern manufacturing offers to young people and the importance of apprenticeships as a starting point for a rewarding career.
“The Leeds Manufacturing Festival has been launched this year to raise awareness and change perceptions. By opening factory doors to school visits and by manufacturing companies going into schools to give talks, we intend to show the young people of Leeds and the adults who influence them – teachers and parents – what the reality of manufacturing in the city is.
“Armed with a real understanding rather than an outdated perception, we believe many more young people will be drawn to the exciting and varied careers, including apprenticeships, that Leeds’ vibrant manufacturing sector offers."