National Apprenticeship Week: Young people need to know the true value of apprenticeships, says CEO

“Young people want the freedom to build portfolio careers as they progress through their working lives, so it is crucial that they know that this is possible if they choose the apprenticeship route.”

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The CEO of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants is using National Apprenticeship week to draw attention to what she sees as a lack of sufficient careers advice about the programmes, especially in relation to professional sectors like accountancy.

Helen Brand, writing for City AM, has written about how the lack of effective careers advice is risking the government’s plan to increase apprenticeship uptake these sectors – especially for those young people electing not to go to university.

Brand highlighted several issues that she believes need resolving:

Unbalanced careers advice

Many young people are choosing to head to university without being fully aware of the wide range of options available to them, observes Brand.

This week, ACCA has released research showing 31% of young people surveyed have received no careers advice about apprenticeships at all.

Brand says the government needs to ensure that careers advisers, schools, employers and Local Enterprise Partnerships work together to give advice on apprenticeships the same level of importance as university.

Flexibility and skills

Brand acknowledges that for many young people, there is a belief that choosing an apprenticeship leave you earning less than graduates, but that it will also be harder to switch careers.

Young people want the freedom to build portfolio careers as they progress through their working lives, so it is crucial that they know that this is possible if they choose the apprenticeship route, says Brand.

“Young people want the freedom to build portfolio careers as they progress through their working lives, so it is crucial that they know that this is possible if they choose the apprenticeship route.”

She advocates using real-world case studies to demonstrate the range of transferable skills gained through an apprenticeship, such as leadership and project management.

Greater transparency

To address the belief that apprentices will earn less, more transparency about graduate and Higher Apprenticeship salaries is needed from employers, says Brand.

Greater transparency on the earning potential of apprenticeship routes into professional careers will enable individuals to make better informed decisions on the choices available to them.

Changing perceptions in the professions

Brand asserts that the government’s Career Enterprise Company is well placed to change perceptions around apprenticeships; by working with a variety of employers and different professional bodies, it could provide clearer information about Higher Apprenticeships and the professional careers available after completing one.

She says young people need to know the range of professional sectors open to them via apprenticeships, for example accountancy.

“It is no secret that skills shortages are still one of the biggest threats to the future health of the UK economy,” says Brand. “Apprenticeship schemes have the potential to tackle these shortages quickly and effectively.”

Social mobility

With the rising cost of university, the government, employers and professional bodies should “shine a light” on routes into careers that do not require a degree, suggests Brand: “If a student chooses not to go to university, they should not be artificially barred from entering a profession that they have the talent and ability to serve with distinction.”

She says this is vital for social mobility and creating a more diverse workforce: “ACCA currently has 455,000 students around the world, 54% of whom are female. Clearing the path for this quarter of a million ambitious, hard-working women is right at the top of our agenda.

“Achieving a socially mobile, diverse workforce relies heavily on ensuring that consistent careers advice is given to everyone.”

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