Why I believe apprenticeships will future proof the next generation

Why I believe apprenticeships will future proof the next generation

This week marks the return of National Apprenticeship Week.

Now in its eleventh year, NAW is a celebration of, and an opportunity to recognise, the role that our young people are already playing in creating a better working world - bravely following a career path that many today still perceive as being ‘lesser’ than the default followed by so many of us before them – university. Those of you that have been following the ongoing work at EY tackling these perceptions will be aware of their Parental Advice campaign, launched last August, based upon research conducted amongst 2,000 British parents with children aged 14-16. Aside from two of the most startling statistics coming from this being that a whopping 74% of parents claimed to have had no careers guidance themselves whilst at school, with 30% saying they didn’t understand the jobs that exist today, was an even more interesting insight:

95% of parents felt that more young people doing apprenticeships straight out of school was a good thing for the UK as whole; however 25% admitted that their child would still be going to university regardless

I’ve pondered this statistic more than any other in the last few months, because despite having graduated (twice) from university I am a self-confessed advocate of apprenticeships with the strongest belief that they do ‘work’ as this year’s NAW campaign is showcasing with hundreds of employers flooding social media with their home-grown talent stories in the form of inspirational apprentice stories from across the country. I’m failing to see how such strong positive opinions are failing to convert into advocacy when it comes to parents. How is university still instilling confidence in today’s parents when it comes to future proofing their children? And can you really future proof your child? After attending an event hosted by EY on Tuesday night, debating this very issue with their friends at The Pool, everything I heard being discussed by the fabulous panel convinced me that parents are putting far too much confidence into universities, ignoring some of the great ways in which apprenticeships will actually, in my opinion, future proof their child better. Allow me to elaborate…

Apprenticeships work because:

  • They are keeping pace with the changing world of work. Today’s apprenticeships are based on skills in demand from employers, helping people from all ages and backgrounds to develop the skills needed today to help our economy become more productive (the UK is 30% behind the rest of the OECD in terms of productivity) and more globally competitive.

  • They offer the same opportunities as university to develop the interpersonal skills needed to be successful in your chosen career, particularly those which have been branded as the Future Skills at EY – complex problem solving, cognitive flexibility, collaboration, creativity and emotional intelligence.

  • They focus apprentices on mastering a skill. Matthew Syed’s book ‘Bounce’ supports Gladwell’s assertion that a major component of success is the number of hours of sustained practice – 10,000 hours in fact, equivalent to 2.7 hours a day for 10 years. If you then do the math here an 3- year apprenticeship is designed to focus an individual on the knowledge, behaviours and skills which will see them become a ‘master’ in their first year following completion – the same time at which a graduate will join your business to begin their journey.

  • They inherently teach apprentices to become more resilient and to bounce-back, learning from failure. James Dyson, designer, inventor and entrepreneur, has said “Creative breakthroughs always begin with multiple failures” whilst praising Syed’s second book ‘Black Box Thinking’ he comments on ‘”how true invention lies in the understanding and overcoming of these failures, which we must learn to embrace”. Do not misunderstand me here, I’m not suggesting that apprenticeships are designed to set people up to fail, but I do believe they provide the time and space apprentices need to understand who they are, make mistakes, grow and develop, whilst encouraging them to follow authentic lives, taking risks they may not have had the exposure to in the ‘university bubble’ I experienced.

  • They take away the pressure parents can often place upon their own children to validate them, as Professor Tanya Byron commented during our panel. It’s something I’ve seen year after year at EY – the pride and commitment apprentices have for achieving their goals, their way, following their own rules without the pressure to be successful as measured by somebody else’s yard stick, is something you have to witness.

I could go on, but I won’t (for now). What I will end by saying is that what I think apprenticeships do finally offer parents, is the opportunity to encourage their helicopter tendencies to take flight, leaving their children to future proof themselves (and maybe even giving them time back to focus on how they can future proof themselves as several parents in the audience on Tuesday confided that they had attended for tips for themselves...). To be continued perhaps?

Watch the live stream

You can watch The Pool’s full 45-minute event stream of ‘Can You Really Future Proof Your Child?’ – (sponsored by EY) here.

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Why teachers are wrong to write off apprenticeships

Why teachers are wrong to write off apprenticeships

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