Despite the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017, there have been four successive quarters of decline in the number of reported apprenticeship starts.
Year on year, this represents a 27.92% fall and comes amid attempts to create 3 million new apprentices by 2020.
There is certainly a disconnect between official aims and what is truly happening in schools across the country.
If all parties have a role to play in increasing the uptake of apprenticeships, what can teachers do to help facilitate this?
Don’t default to the university mindset
The goal of university has become commonplace within many classrooms.
Amid the backdrop of record numbers of teenagers going to university in 2017/18, it’s easy to settle into the “when you go to university” mindset that, consciously or otherwise, implies that other routes are lesser.
Simply changing your language in the classroom could make a big difference in the long term.
Invite ex-pupils and employers into the classroom
In a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference in 2016, two apprentices complained that they had been told apprenticeships weren’t an option for them, with one recounting:
I was even told in my school that if I got an apprenticeship I would be wasting my time and I wouldn’t have a job, I wouldn’t have a career, that I would need uni behind me to actually make something of myself.
One of the best ways to counter attitudes like this is for pupils to hear from current and past apprentices, along with the employers who rely on them every day.
This piece by Richard Robinson of AECOM encourages companies to become active in recruiting apprentices, proving that there is appetite within industry to promote apprenticeships if you persevere.
Collectively push for improved apprenticeship advice
You may have the clout to push for apprentice and employer classroom invitations yourself within your school, but what if you don’t?
If you feel as though your school’s official policy is to promote university as the sole option for school leavers (as 14% of teachers reported to the latest Sutton Trust research) then it could seem as if you’re starting a battle you can’t win.
However, it’s likely other teachers in your school are having similar thoughts, so seek them out and join forces.
Use the government toolkit to educate pupils
One of the resources that the government has developed is this teachers’ handbook that includes guided sessions on apprenticeships designed to help pupils explore this option for themselves.
It probably goes without saying that if these sessions aren’t delivered by an apprenticeship-friendly teacher then they won’t have a positive impact on the students.
You also need to be sure that the advice you give isn’t simply going to be contradicted by the next teacher they speak to, and that’s why a school-level approach is vital. If you don’t yet have that positive environment, try and work towards it.