The future of apprenticeships in the UK

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
February, 2023

For National Apprenticeship Week 2023, we spoke with the government's minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education, Robert Halfon, regarding some of the key issues surrounding apprenticeships in the UK

How is the government looking to address negative/outdated perceptions of technical apprenticeships?

High-quality careers advice is the first rung on the ladder of opportunity and crucial to counteracting these outdated perceptions of technical education passed down to students while they are still in school.

Effective careers advice needs to be clear, impartial and comprehensive, so that students understand that technical courses, including apprenticeships and T Levels, will open up just as many career opportunities to them as the traditional academic route.

I'd encourage all students who are thinking about their next steps to visit GOV.UK - Get the jump to investigate the range of options available to them, from T-levels and apprenticeships to higher technical qualifications.

What are the benefits of degree apprenticeships? Have they been a success?

I often say that degree apprenticeships are two of my favourite words in the English language, they combine the best of the academic and vocational routes by giving students the opportunity to gain hands-on work experience while securing a degree without any student debt and the prospect of a great job at the end of it.

Since their introduction in 2014/5, 148,000 students have started a degree-level apprenticeship and despite the impact of the pandemic, the number of starts increased by 10% last year, which is great news, but more needs to be done.

A lack of awareness around what students can expect from degree apprenticeships is often cited as a barrier to the take-up of vacancies. What can the government do to raise the visibility of apprenticeships so they're viewed as a viable career pathway?

I want universities that don't currently offer degree apprenticeships to start and ensure that all students understand that this is an option available to them. That's why we're making up to £8million available to encourage higher education providers to expand their degree apprenticeship offers, and before students even step foot in university, ensuring they receive careers advice that highlights the range of benefits a degree apprenticeship can bring to their future career.

We are investing £3.2million each year into our Apprenticeships Support and Knowledge (ASK) programme to enable schools to ensure that students are aware of the benefits of apprenticeships, so that students get the advice they need to make informed choices about their future.

What more can be done to ensure apprenticeships are inclusive and open to people from all backgrounds?

Social justice means extending the ladder of opportunity to people from all backgrounds, and apprenticeships are a core component of this because they give all learners the opportunity to earn while they learn the specific skills businesses are looking for.

For learners with a learning difficulty or disability, we're working to make sure this isn't a barrier to an apprenticeship. Training providers can access learning support funding of £150 a month to deliver reasonable adjustments for their apprentices.

I'm also pleased to say that, from August this year, we are increasing the apprenticeship care leavers' bursary from £1,000 to £3,000, on top of £1,000 each for the employer and provider. This will enable even more care leavers to take up apprenticeships and fulfil their potential.

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