Around 98% of engineering apprentices are happy in their jobs, citing good pay and no debt, fulfilling work, qualifications and career progression.
But this successful career route is at risk from government changes to the apprenticeship system and is being held back by poor careers advice at school, according to research by the Industry Apprentice Council.
The research was carried out with 1200 apprentices, through the Industry Apprentice Council – made up of apprentices from the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector – and supported by national engineering skills body Semta.
Ann Watson, Chief Executive of the Semta Group, said: “As we finalise new standards for apprenticeships, it is important that ministers listen to apprentices and prevent the collapse of an extremely successful system. We are already facing an uphill battle with poor careers advice in schools. We need to make apprenticeships more attractive – not less – to our young people and employers, particularly the SMEs, at a time when we need all the engineers we can get and the skills gap is growing – we need nearly two million more engineers and technical staff by 2025.”
Some 92% of the apprentices surveyed oppose the removal of mandatory qualifications by the Department for Education, with warnings that this will create a two-tier system. Those studying the new T-Levels will achieve a recognised formal qualification, while apprentices may not – as qualifications are not mandatory in the new apprenticeship standards.
School careers advice came under heavy fire from the apprentices. Only 22% received good or very good advice from schools, with 5% receiving no advice and nearly 40% saying their advice was bad or very bad. Other recommendations for government and schools were that no school should be awarded outstanding by OFSTED unless they deliver quality careers advice on apprenticeships and that this advice should be a statutory requirement in all schools.
A significant gender bias in careers advice was also apparent, with 85% of female apprentices saying their school or college had placed higher education as the number one option for school leavers, compared to just 77% for male apprentices. Similarly, fewer young women were given information about apprenticeships, compared to young men – 35% and 41%, respectively.
Philippa Dressler-Pearson, IAC member and advanced technical engineering apprentice at Southco Manufacturing Ltd, Worcester, commented: “There’s a massive skills shortage of engineers and technical staff in the UK but you don’t hear anything about this in schools. Teachers don’t have enough information about apprenticeships, why they are important and what they offer.”