Apprenticeships: Shattering stereotypes to shape success

24 August 2023

The apprenticeship system dates back to the 16th Century as a means to provide technical training to young people starting out. In the modern employer market, apprenticeships look very different and can be a career starter in everything from HR, to consulting to a legal career. The times have changed – now our mindsets need to catch up.

In January 2022, ISE reported that 63% of companies saw a reduction in applications for their apprenticeship roles and this is not an anomaly – many organisations are struggling to fill their attractive apprenticeship schemes compared to their graduate ones. Why is this? Why is there a stigma around apprenticeships? Where did the stereotypes and myths that exist around apprenticeships come from? And how can companies overcome them effectively?


Apprenticeship stereotypes

Many young people as well as their parents still hold their outdated beliefs about apprenticeships and spread misinformation, which can be fatal for the attraction rate of apprenticeships. This is because the opportunity to go to university is seen as prestigious and can make apprenticeships look like the ‘second option’ and the less prestige alternative. This idea still echoes in people’s mind todays.

Sourced from UCAS and The Guardian (2022) some of the outdated beliefs people hold about apprenticeships are:

  • Apprenticeships being limited to only blue-collared jobs
  • Limited career progression
  • Limited flexibility once a specific apprenticeship is selected
  • People do apprenticeships because they don’t have the grades to get into university
  • Apprentices are paid poorly

However, these are inaccurate representation of what apprenticeships can offer young people, with countless opportunities for growth and development in a range of different sectors and organisations such as such:

  • Leading British retailer, M&S
  • Global biopharma company, GSK
  • Two of the ‘big four’ accounting firms, KPMG and EY
  • British multinational law firm, Clifford Chance

And many more…

Parental influence

Parents are the key decision makers in a young student’s life and students often look to their parents for guidance when it comes to making important decisions. In 2020, the government conducted research finding that 60% of parents with children aged 13-18 did not want their child to do an apprenticeship because they didn’t want them to be ‘stuck making tea’ (The Department for Education, 2020).

When I was in the position, a few years ago, to decide what I wanted to do once I had finished Sixth Form, doing an apprenticeship was never even an option. My parents wanted me to go to university so that’s what I did. The idea of doing an apprenticeship never even came up. After speaking to friends and colleagues, it was clear that this is somewhat an accurate representation of how many young people pick a career route.

Research conducted stated that 90% of parents claim they have insufficient knowledge about apprenticeships (Amberjack, 2023) and 45% were not aware that apprenticeships could go right up to degree level (The Department for Education, 2020).

To attract young people to apprenticeships, organisations must recognise the influence that parents have and adjust their strategy to encompass parents as well.

Student perceptions

In a survey of 5000 students conducted by Prospects, 39% indicated that a degree held a more favourable reputation than apprenticeships. A similar perception was echoed by many students, who believed that apprenticeships offered fewer developmental and career opportunities compared to traditional university routes. What’s apparent is that young people often lack sufficient information about apprenticeships. But why is this the case?

ISE reported that only 26% found information about apprenticeships easy to access, compared to 73% for higher education. Unfortunately, many schools don’t provide the same level of information and support for apprenticeships as they do for university applications. In my own school experience, apprenticeships were never discussed. This leaves many students having to conduct independent research when applying for apprenticeship roles, while their peers receive ample support for their university applications.

When choosing what university, I wanted to go to, I did lots of research on different social media platforms to understand more about what different universities offered and where I felt would be a good fit for me, seeing what life would look like if I were to go.

With 85% Gen Z say that social media influences their buying-decisions, social media plays a pivotal role in our decision-making process. When I was choosing what university, I wanted to go to, I used social media to help me understand more about what different universities offered and what life would look like if I were to go there. Social media helped me realise where would be a good fit. The same information about apprenticeships is unfortunately not available for many young people looking to apply.

What steps can be taken?

So, what can organisations do to overcome existing stereotypes, challenge misinformation and educate students and parents around what apprenticeships can offer young people?

  • Support Schools: Equip schools with essential resources like information packs, application guidance, and online skill sessions. Ensure that students receive assistance regardless of their chosen path.
  • Forge School Partnerships: Collaborate with schools to engage both parents and students through various avenues such as:
    • Career fairs
    • Career exploration days
    • Question and answer sessions
    • Inclusion in newsletters
  • Host Apprenticeship Insight Days: Showcase the real essence of your apprenticeship program. Highlight daily tasks, allow potential applicants to interact with current apprentices, and emphasize the program’s benefits.
  • Leverage Social Media and Online Marketing: Disseminate information in an engaging manner. Consider using “Day in the Life” videos and posts outlining program advantages. Customize your content to resonate with the Gen-Z demographic through language, imagery, and video formats.

In today’s climate of soaring university costs and disruptions in education, apprenticeships shine as a top-tier choice, not just a fallback. They offer promising careers without the weight of student debt. So, to boost interest, organisations need to adapt their marketing strategy and harness the power of parents, schools, and social media. It’s time to make apprenticeships a desirable path for talented young individuals.


Written by Koy Rogers, Student Marketing Intern

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