Posted by Lizzie ● 14 September 2018

What Do Young People Really Think About Apprenticeships?

Back in July, we invited a panel of school leavers and apprentices to join us at our annual RateMyApprenticeship Awards. The aim was to find out what the youth of today really think about apprenticeships; from perceptions in school and their influencers, to what employers can do to engage students more effectively in the future.

So what do young people really think about apprenticeships? Let’s find out…

Meet the panel:

Anastasia Polinesi is a Year 12 student at City & Islington College. She is interested in finding an apprenticeship after she finishes college but is also not ruling out University.

James Chapman started an apprenticeship at Unilever in September 2017. He was the only student in his class who went on to do an apprenticeship after his A-Levels.

Jamil Rashid is going into Year 13 at City & Islington College. He is currently studying A-Levels and is looking for an apprenticeship in the Finance sector.

Lucy Carter is a Tax Associate apprentice at PwC. Lucy chose an apprenticeship as she knew she wanted to be a Chartered Accountant and felt this was the best option for her.


#1  The knowledge gap still exists

While there’s been much noise in the industry about apprenticeships, there is still a clear knowledge gap among young people. This was highlighted when Jamil stated, ‘If you want to become a lawyer, you can’t do it through an apprenticeship'. This sparked excitement in the audience, with employers jumping at the opportunity to educate Jamil that this was simply not the case.

There is still more work to be done to educate schools and students about the incredible pathways available. A big driver in this is how open schools are to promoting apprenticeships as the panel had varied experiences of their own schools and colleges supporting them.  

There is promising news around this, with a recent report by TES stating that there has been a 45% increase in young people under 19 starting a higher apprenticeship (Level 4 or above) in the last year. The more we can do to support schools and colleges with educating students about apprenticeships, the higher the chances more young people will consider them.

#2 Values matter to young people

Values are incredibly important to Generation Z. They are attracted and loyal to brands that share their ethics and values. This is reflected in where they want to work and how they want to be treated so it’s hugely important for employers to showcase this through their recruitment marketing.

This was emphasised by Anastasia, who revealed that company values are more important than money. She wants to work for a company that shares her values and helps her to continue to grow rather than focusing on receiving a mammoth salary each month.

Showcasing your values at all possible touch-points in the recruitment process; from your website to your on-boarding process, will all contribute to helping young people want to work for you.


#3  Being the 'odd one out'

Anastasia and Jamil both talked about being some of the only students amongst their peers considering the apprenticeship route. It’s not something they talk about with their friends and it’s still very much a question of “what university are you applying to?”

James further highlighted this when he revealed he was the only one is his class of around 25 people to choose the apprenticeship route. Lucy’s experience was similar; from a class of 60 there were only 5 people who started an apprenticeship over going to university.

There are many reasons why an apprenticeship could be a better option for a young person over going to university. James talked about knowing that the classroom just isn’t right for him. He thrives in an environment that gets him thinking practically and uses what he’s learnt in real work scenarios.

Both James and Lucy believed they had made the right choice taking the apprenticeship path, and would encourage their peers to do the same. However, so few of their peers even considered it! They were the odd ones out. This highlights the importance of young people being aware of apprenticeships earlier.

As an employer, using real stories of young people on apprenticeships that prospective students can relate to is important. Case studies, blog or video content of your apprentices is a great way to achieve this. The reviews on RateMyApprenticeship can also help young people understand what it’s really like to do an apprenticeship from their peers, even if they aren’t directly talking about it with their friends.

#4  Future career prospects

The entire panel talked about their futures... a lot! Doing the right things to ensure they set themselves up well for the future was extremely important. Anastasia mentioned that [she didn’t] 'want any of my choices to limit me in the future because I want to keep growing professionally'.

Through her college, Anastasia found work experience in a hedge fund. When she told them she wanted to do a degree apprenticeship after college her colleagues told her to 'aim higher'. Ana said this made her feel demotivated but she shrugged it off.

For Lucy, she knew she wanted to be a Chartered Accountant from the age of 16. For her, taking an apprenticeship was a clear option. It would help her to reach her goal before her peers by completing her qualifications earlier than graduates would.

Not all young people know what they want to do or what they can do. In a time of transition for the apprenticeship and school leaver space it’s important to show young people the bigger picture. To tackle the issue of knowledge gaps, peers not talking about apprenticeships and the majority of people still choosing university, it’s important we address the worries of young people early on.

In an attraction campaign, this could be achieved through highlighting someone’s journey within the business - perhaps they started as an apprentice and have worked their way up? Young people need to be inspired by apprenticeships instead of feeling like it’s an option that could limit them in the future.

For Jamil, he talked about a video he had seen from Lloyds Banking Group.

‘I saw a video about an apprentice - he was a trendy guy, a similar age to me and was really excited about his apprenticeship. It wasn’t the apprenticeship itself that I liked, it was the video. It was something that I could relate to.’

You can watch that video below. It’s a day in the life of an apprentice, and is a great example of content created by an employer featuring an apprentice. 

All that’s left to say is… Thanks to our amazing panel!

A HUGE thank you to our amazing panel for being so honest and open about their thoughts and experiences. We hope this blog has given you some food for thought around what the reality is for young people around apprenticeships, straight from the horse’s mouth.

Special thanks goes to Tim Campbell (MBE), our amazing host of the RateMyApprenticeship Awards and chair of the panel.

You can download and listen to the full recording of the student panel here.

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Topics: School & College Leaver