Changing the narrative around apprenticeships

The route to university is well informed and well supported, but a lack of understanding and awareness is hindering the number of young people considering apprenticeships.

On top of this, those who do know about apprenticeships invariably have a negative opinion of them.

According to research carried out by UCAS, which has been helping school leavers progress into higher education for more than 30 years, a third of people said they received no information about apprenticeships while at school. It also found that only 57% believe an apprenticeship can lead to a good job and just four per cent associate the word ‘prestigious’ with apprenticeships.

Pete Milsom, Partnerships Manager – Apprenticeships, at UCAS, said, “There is a lot of work to do to make apprenticeships a credible option for people; awareness is low and there are many negative misconceptions associated with apprenticeships. Compared to those entering university, the apprenticeship journey isn’t well supported and there is no single source of truth for anyone trying to find out about it.”


However, UCAS is trying to change that. In the last few years it has committed both time and resource into developing its apprenticeship services and now this area is its biggest single investment. Its ultimate objective is to provide the same level of support to apprentices as it does for undergraduates.

Pete said, “University admissions is still one of our core services, but we’ve transitioned from an admissions brand to a discovery brand and when it comes to apprentices, we decided to give our work some real heft about two years ago. It’s now incorporated into our corporate strategy as we want to empower people to discover their next steps across all higher education pathways.”

This sharper focus on apprenticeships has been driven both by demand and by necessity. Pete says more and more young people joining UCAS are expressing an interest in apprenticeships, while UCAS itself recognises the role this often-overlooked talent pool can play in addressing the wider skills challenge.

Pete said, “Having apprentices as part of the workforce allows employers to shape how their team is trained, so the skills relevant to their organisation are developed and a pipeline of talent is created for the future.”


To harness this latent potential, UCAS has spent the last 18 months updating and developing its advice and guidance around apprenticeships.

It has also developed a range of bespoke tools to help apprentices and employers find each other, such as industry guides which include case studies, career paths and average salaries, and employer profiles, where companies can promote themselves to individuals.

It has also developed an apprenticeship search tool, allowing young people to seek out and then apply for apprenticeship vacancies based on sector and location, and this autumn it plans to introduce a similar solution for employers which will enable them to search registered users on the hub according to their own preferences.

Meanwhile, by next year UCAS hopes to have linked the hub with its talent-finding tools to provide a personalised service which also offers recommendations for both individuals and companies.

Pete concluded, “Everything we do for an undergraduate applicant, we want to do for an apprenticeship applicant as well. We want to make it easier for everyone involved to make the best choice they can about their next steps.”

Pete was speaking at ILC’s inaugural New Generation event, which took place at etc.venues Manchester on 26 April.

ILC would like to thank headline sponsor Wiser Group as well as sponsors Carpenters Group, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and Zurich.


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