Apprenticeships: A point of view from a Careers Adviser in school


First up; some data.

The most recent year that we have complete data for destinations in Luton is 2011 leavers.

In November of 2011, 12 out of 2546 school leavers in Luton were in an Apprenticeship route. My school had supplied 5 of those. By the Spring of 2012 when another check had been completed the total number had jumped to 37, with 7 coming from Stopsley High.

If we go back to students who left High school in 2008, in Spring 2012 115 were in Apprenticeships. The figures are similar for 2009 leavers.

There are two strands from these figures that I blog about here:

Our Apprenticeship education and IAG programme in school:

Our Careers Education input about Apprenticeships starts in Year 10 with lessons like this

which are generic lessons designed to get students talking about the route and more comfortable with the mix of learning and earning involved.

Since using social media to connect to organisations, I’ve realised there are lots of online resources out there to help so the onus is now on schools to organise these into what they need and then find curriculum time to deliver to students.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone of our  KS4 students will be able to tell you all of the ins and outs of an apprenticeship framework but we try and get the core message across to classes at first and then individually later on.

A massive part of the disconnect with young people and Apprenticeships is the lack of knowledge about them in the general teaching community. We use a wide range of teachers to deliver our Careers education programme so the skills base will be variable and many teachers would be finding out about the route as they deliver the session. There are positives to this as you are automatically spreading the knowledge amongst staff but there is an onus on the Careers lead in schools to help prepare staff to deliver these types of lessons.

Into Year 11:

By this time, face to face IAG sessions are taking place and the students who are interested in the idea of an Apprenticeship are beginning to be known.

We have a white board in our room on which we update possible Apprenticeship route students and their areas of interest and so the contact with home can begin.

We have a great contact at Bedford College who comes in to lead a session in which the students sign up to the NAS site and begin their plan of action of which companies to approach with calls, letters and C.Vs. Our Year 11 Careers fair is also full of apprenticeship providers and employers raising the profile of the route with students. Parents are given a dedicated Apprenticeship presentation at Year 11 revision evening.

As a Careers team, our responsibility is then to be on the look out for every possible opportunity. To keep checking websites, to look on twitter and be on every mailing list we can to be ahead of the game when large scale companies announce their Apprenticeship schemes and to be clued into local links when smaller businesses might have an opportunity.

It’s fair to say though, even with this work, a large amount of possible Apprenticeships come to us through contacts students and their families have made, sometimes on work experience in Year 10, sometimes just through networks of friends.

From this point on it’s a matter of chase, chase, chase. Chasing students to see what contacts they’re making in their own time, chasing parents to pass on online application links and chasing students again to make sure they have called back that plasterer who said it might be taking someone on.

And the chase continues right to the summer break and even beyond. Another aspect which puts youngsters off Apprenticeships is the uncertainty. With a College application it’s all done by Easter, you know what course you would do, what grades you would need and exactly where you’ll be going come September. Chasing an Apprenticeship means putting yourself out there, open for rejection (something teenagers aren’t good at) and with a greater possibility that you won’t get what you want while the majority of your peers have their future seemingly all sorted.

Not that this is a bad thing. Sometimes the path between school and College/Sixth Form can be all too smooth for students and the idea of actually applying for something that they might not get can scare them away from even participating. If we really are committed to training young people for the world of work then surely part of that is applying for jobs and not getting them which happens lots with Apprenticeships at 16.

A bit about those Luton statistics:

It’s not a lot at all is it? 12 out of 1246.

All the headlines are that the total numbers of Apprenticeships are rising but this isn’t the case for starts for under 19s

and that is reflected in the Luton statistics above.

The Government know this is an issue which is why they have floated the idea of ‘Traineeships” as a king of pre Apprenticeship filler

but more learning, no work can’t be the whole answer. I believe there is a need for dedicated school leaver apprenticeship routes at 16, and lots of them. Whatever National Apprenticeship Week can do to increase opportunities will be fantastic because we’ve got about 25 students this year who have expressed an interest in an Apprenticeship. Because Sixth Form feels too much like school to them, because they feel pressure at home to start earning money or because we’ve promoted a great route to them, that’s the path they would prefer and next year, I’m sure that number will rise.

Now, not many of them will get one straight out of school, some will continue applying and will find a placement while at College and some will have given up long before then. But it would be great if more than 5 had an Apprenticeship sorted by November and that’s what now needs to catch up. The demand is there, I can’t promise you the skills are consistent across all those potential applicants but we’re spreading the word and the young people are coming.


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