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How apprenticeships can remedy the UK's A-level obsession

02nd October 2020

Our Chief Executive Officer, Mark Creighton, spoke with FE News about the importance of apprenticeships in the context of Coronavirus and A levels. 

If A-level results day has taught us anything this year, it’s that education and fairness matter to young people. Of course, nobody wants to feel that they’ve been judged unfairly, but it strikes me that our undue focus on A-levels and university over other forms of education may have worsened the situation.

Many young people have been told throughout their school career that because A-levels are the way into university, and university is the only way to a good career, not receiving the A-level results you’re hoping for is disastrous.

University shouldn’t be seen as the only way forward

We do young people a disservice when we present them with such a narrow range of options, such a one-dimensional picture of success. For some people, university will be the best and most fulfilling route to a great career, but it comes with downsides: debt, a lack of experience of real workplaces, and limited ability to earn money. University shouldn’t be seen as the only way forwards. Apprenticeships and other forms of further education can be a fantastic route into a very large range of careers, including everything from data analysis to marketing.  

Some of our apprentices received extremely strong A-level results and chose an apprenticeship because they knew it was what they wanted to do—for instance, Anais Valoris, who has just completed one of our data analyst apprenticeships. Anais told us she knew an apprenticeship was right for her because she wanted to earn while she learned, and her course has now led her onto a path she would never otherwise have experienced.

Some of our apprentices began a university degree, but then dropped out, realising it wasn’t right for them. Others had struggled in school but began to flourish once they entered the working environment. We are all different, and every one of these different journeys and personalities should be nurtured. If we throw all our attention at the group of people who will do well in a university environment, we are leaving many more to either struggle in a system that doesn’t suit them, or unsure of their place and route into work.

Ensuring many routes into employment are available

Given the skills gap in the UK economy, and the detrimental effects of youth unemployment both for the individual and for society, ignoring the potential of apprenticeships would be a huge oversight. There is still further opportunity for the government and employers to work together, to understand what the most valuable skills are and speak up about how younger generations can develop a career.

Apprentices have been shown to stay with their employers for longer than average after completing their course; it really is a win-win for all involved. More support and awareness of apprenticeships from both government and schools would benefit students, employers, and society as a whole, increasing social mobility and reducing unemployment. Apprentices come from a diverse range of backgrounds, enabling businesses to access talented people from across our society.

There is no one route that will work for everyone. In this challenging environment, we need to ensure there are as many new and existing routes into employment are available. At Avado we are offering a programme called FastFutures in partnership with top UK employers like BT, AstraZeneca, Barclays and the NHS, which we hope will act as a bridge to employment. The scheme is open to school-leavers and graduates alike.

With initiatives like this, alongside apprenticeships, further, and higher education, we can give all of our young people the choice they deserve and an opportunity to create a bright future for themselves.