Ruby Nightingale takes a look back at 2018 and the launch of our first ever campaign.

2018 has been a great year for apprenticeships at the Sutton Trust. Building on our 2017 research, we launched our #BetterApprenticeships campaign, held our #BetterApprenticeships 2018 summit, and released new polling of young people and teacher’s attitudes towards apprenticeships.

#BetterApprenticeships campaign and summit

We believe that good quality apprenticeships can be important vehicles for social mobility, which is why we’ve spent the past year campaigning for #BetterApprenticeships.

We launched our campaign during National Apprenticeship Week in March earlier this year. Our call for #BetterApprenticeships focuses on three main areas: high-quality apprenticeships, automatic progression from level 2 to 3, and increasing the number of higher and degree apprenticeships.

In July, we held a summit to mark the launch of this campaign. The event brought together policymakers, academics and apprentices to discuss the state of apprenticeships in the UK and how they can promote social mobility. We were delighted to have keynote speeches from both Skills Minister Anne Milton and Shadow Skills Minister Gordon Marsden, and heard how each party approaches the current issues and challenges within the sector. It was great to have a panel of young apprentices at the summit. They spoke about their experiences, the benefits of taking up an apprenticeship and the challenges in doing so.

Attitudes to apprenticeships

To coincide with our summit, we published polling on young people and teachers’ views on apprenticeships. Encouragingly, we found that young people’s views of apprenticeships had improved since we surveyed them in 2014, with two thirds saying they would be interested in doing an apprenticeship. However, the polling also revealed that teachers are still unlikely to recommend apprenticeships to their highest achieving pupils, highlighting that there is still a long way to go before we achieve parity of esteem between technical and academic routes.

In September, it was great to see the Education Select Committee echo some of our recommendations in their report on its inquiry into the quality of apprenticeships, including a UCAS-style portal for apprenticeships admission and increasing the number of degree apprenticeships.

Building consensus

Along with our summit and new research, we’ve also been meeting with employers, colleges and training providers, to work together in addressing some of these challenges and barriers in the sector.

We’ve published monthly apprenticeship guest blogs, hearing from employers, policymakers and leading apprenticeship organisations on their views on the state of apprenticeships in the UK and what we can do to improve them.

What do we want to see in 2019?

We welcome the government’s renewed focus on apprenticeships and while it is encouraging to see engagement on the issue, there is still far more to be done. Despite some recent growth there are only around 10,000 degree apprenticeship places offered each year – this is compared to around 300,000 undergraduate places at university.

As well as increasing the number of higher and degree apprenticeship opportunities available, we want to see parity of esteem between academic and technical education. To help achieve this, all apprenticeships should be of good quality with seamless progression between levels, so that young people have the same opportunities for progression as their peers going through the A-level and university route.

We will continue to build on our work in 2019 to improve access to and availability of high-quality apprenticeships. As increasing numbers of young people are put off by the cost of going to university, it is vital that we ensure there are more high-quality education options for young people.

Ruby Nightingale is Communications and Policy Assistant at the Sutton Trust.

Find out more about our #betterapprenticeships campaign or read our research on apprenticeships.

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