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Young people actively discouraged from choosing apprenticeships


On the same day as Suffolk County Council announces £1.5m of spending on a series of targeted efforts to promote the importance of apprenticeships and drive greater take up by businesses and young people, we hear, again, that young people are being diverted away from vocational learning.

A report from the Edge Foundation suggests that vocational education continues to be stigmatised with 22% of respondents being advised they were “too clever” for apprenticeships and 36% told that choosing academic subjects would make them “more successful”.

This is despite evidence that people who choose a practical, hands-on approach to learning are as fulfilled as people who took an academic route.

The new study, commissioned by the Edge Foundation, is based on a survey of over 2,000 18-35 year olds, split between those who had opted for a vocational education and those who had taken a wholly academic route.

Whilst two thirds (65%) of the academic group said they felt their school supported their choice, only a third (35%) of the vocational group could say the same. Over a third (36%) of students who pursued a vocational route were advised by school that they would be ‘more successful’ if they chose the academic pathway and almost a quarter (22%) were told that they were ‘too clever’ for vocational education.

John Hodges of the Edge Foundation said:

Our research clearly shows that both academic and vocational education can lead to successful and fulfilling careers for young people. It is disappointing that so few parents and teachers see vocational education as being worthwhile, when in fact both routes result in similar levels of happiness, job satisfaction and financial gain.

“The stigma attached to vocational learning is old-fashioned and unjust. A skilled workforce is essential to the UK economy and high quality vocational routes need to be available and encouraged.

You can download the data here as an Excel file.

Suffolk: £1.5m invested in apprenticeships

Suffolk County Council are set to invest in three programmes of activity to unlock apprenticeship growth, these are:

  1. Making apprenticeships more accessible to employers, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises

  2. Raising the profile of apprenticeships in schools and supporting young people to participate

  3. Community based marketing and communications: raising awareness of the benefits of apprenticeships, demonstrating the importance of apprenticeships to the local economy, employers and young people

Businesses, training providers, communities and young people across Suffolk will benefit from these programmes. The activity will also support delivery of the Suffolk Growth Strategy, Raising the Bar and the Greater Ipswich City Deal. It will also contribute towards Suffolk County Council’s responsibilities in relation to Raising the Participation Age.

Through these programmes young people will be offered free impartial support to identify suitable apprenticeship opportunities and apply for vacancies. This activity will be delivered through the relationships with schools and the many services and resources that the council makes available to young people.

A network of volunteer Apprenticeship Ambassadors has been established; made up of current or former apprentices who are there to help inspire other young people and highlight the programme as an excellent and rewarding career path.


I remember my friend failing his 11 plus (yes, it’s many years ago) and another friend’s mother offering a sympathetic word “Oh well, never mind, you can always be an engineer.”

What is it with this country, that we simply haven’t moved on. Why, with good evidence that lifetime earnings and work satisfaction comparable bewtween academic and vocational routes, do we still place academic subjects on such a pedestal and regard vocational learning as something of a backstop, in case all else fails? I wish the Suffolk initiative well but I’m afraid we’ve been here before.

Leeds City Council gets it…

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