Education is needed to end apprenticeship stigma, says BCS

Only 4% of those surveyed by UCAS associate the word ‘prestigious’ with an apprenticeship

Career advisors need to do more to educate people on the advantages of apprenticeships, according to the BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT.

Annette Allmark, head of Apprenticeships at BCS, said a social stigma is still associated with apprenticeship schemes, and that many still favour traditional university degrees, even if they are unsuitable for the student.

The comments follow recent findings from UCAS which show that only 4% of those surveyed associate the word 'prestigious' with an apprenticeship, in comparison to the 76% who aligned the term with a university degree.

This can be attributed to 'misplaced snobbery' and an 'outdated stigma' associated with such programmes, as well as a lack of accessible information about apprenticeships, according to UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant.

Allmark said that the results of UCAS' polls "shows more education is needed, especially from careers advisors – but also more widely via, for instance, social media campaigns to change perceptions".

"We know, as a professional body, that apprentices are skilled and competent. We carry out the final test that digital apprentices have to take to prove they can do their job – an end-point assessment," said Allmark.

"We have seen an ongoing increase in the numbers we process, which shows the popularity of this career path and progression onto degree apprenticeships. It's also a great choice for sectors of society which, traditionally, have seen the least participation in higher education," she added.

Allmark's statement follows another set of UCAS polls which found that Computer Science was the second most popular degree apprenticeship considered by students applying to study in 2022, chosen by 65.2%. This was only marginally less than the top degree apprenticeship choice, Engineering, at 65.6%.

However, the UCAS survey also found that one in two college students, and one in three school pupils, weren't informed about the option of pursuing an apprenticeship, in spite of a legal requirement placed on schools to do so. Introduced in 2018, the Baker clause requires schools to allow colleges, apprenticeship providers, and University Technical Colleges to talk to students about potential study routes.

Last year, a Computer Science university student told IT Pro that she was not made aware of degree apprenticeships before starting her undergraduate degree, finding out about the option only at the end of her studies from fellow interns at Goldman Sachs.

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"The bank chose which courses would be the most important for them. I think that's a great option and it diminishes the class gap between people who cannot afford to go to university," she said.

This is not surprising, given that UCAS research also found that almost one in three parents and carers were unaware that it was possible for students to apply for a degree apprenticeship alongside an undergraduate application.

However, parents who had taken an apprenticeship themselves were twice as likely to encourage their child to follow in their footsteps, as opposed to pursuing a sole undergraduate degree.

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