Annex 2: Apprenticeship engagement event
On 20 July 2016 we held an informal engagement event with apprentices. It was arranged by Parliamentary Outreach with the assistance of AAT, Crossrail, Electrical Contractors’ Association, GTA England, National Day Nurseries Association, NHS Employers, Royal National Theatre, The Prince’s Trust, Universities UK, WorldSkills UK and the Young Women’s Trust. Attendees discussed topics within the scope of the inquiry with Sub-Committee Members and staff. The following is a summary of comments made during the event, divided into two topic sections.
Experiences of applying for an apprenticeship
Most of the apprentices attending the informal session felt the process of applying for an apprenticeship could be improved. Frequent criticisms included:
- Inadequate advice and support from schools. Many apprentices felt that their school focused on university admission, with an apprenticeship presented as a ‘back-up option’, if at all. Few received help finding an apprenticeship or submitting an application. Some had initially followed the university route having been unaware of other options. A number of attendees suggested that job centres or colleges had provided better information and guidance.
- Lack of clear information when making an application. Job descriptions were often vague or limited to job title with little indication of what an apprenticeship would involve. Government websites were described as confusing and sometimes difficult to navigate. A minority of apprentices disagreed, in particular those who had applied to apprenticeship programmes with larger firms whose websites were described as more user-friendly with clearer and more detailed information.
Some apprentices spoke of difficulties finding appropriate apprenticeships in their local area, in particular those who wished to pursue creative programmes. Others reported opposition from parents or difficulties securing apprenticeships at a later stage in their careers due to the misconception that apprenticeships were only for young people.
Experiences of being an apprentice
Most attendees were positive about their apprenticeship programmes and the opportunities they provided to learn in the workplace. The relative job security provided by many apprenticeships was contrasted with the cost and insecurity of the university route. However, some concerns were expressed:
- While the majority of employers provided sufficient time for off-the-job study, some apprentices reported difficulty in balancing their responsibilities to employer and training provider. In general, good communication between employer and training provider was considered beneficial. Attendees pursuing degree apprenticeships or with caring responsibilities reported particular difficulty in balancing work and study.
- A number of apprentices expressed dissatisfaction with their training provider. Some felt tutors were insufficiently qualified to provide appropriate support and unavailable when assistance was required.
- Some attendees suggested that routes to progression within their companies was not clear and that those hired through graduate schemes had clearer paths to promotion. Such views were less pronounced in apprentices employed by larger companies and smaller firms with well-established apprenticeship schemes.
- The English and maths requirements of level 3 programmes was criticised by some attendees as unduly taxing and unrelated to the requirements of the role.
A recurring theme was the importance of in-work training and mentoring to the provision of high-quality training.