Apprenticeships Campaign Manager Katherine Doherty explains why and how we’re running our newest programme.

At the Sutton Trust, we’re delighted to announce the launch of our Apprenticeship Summer School, which will be delivered in partnership with leading employers and apprenticeship experts this summer. Given the current circumstances, this pilot year will be delivered in digital format, with a view to move to face-to-face programming for 2021. 

We believe that the best apprenticeships have the potential to be a great tool for social mobility and as such, have been developing our work on apprenticeships in recent yearsFrom research to campaigning, we have been building our understanding of the challenges for young people in accessing apprenticeship opportunities and are now excited to translate our learning into a programme for 100 Year 12 students from across the UK.  

The barriers to access 

We know that a lack of consistent advice and guidance is a barrier to young people accessing top apprenticeships, particularly those from less advantaged backgrounds. For example, our polling found that whilst students’ attitudes towards apprenticeships are becoming increasingly more positive, 64% of teachers still say they are unlikely to recommend apprenticeships to their highest achieving pupils.  

In addition, in recent years degree level apprenticeships have increasingly become populated with older people. With over half of degree apprentice starters being 25 and over in 2018/19, there is a risk employers are prioritising training of their existing older workforce rather than using apprenticeships an alternative route to university for young people looking to start their chosen career.

In this competitive landscape, it is crucial that young people are equipped with the skills and knowledge of what employers are looking for in their workforce and how to successfully apply for apprenticeships. We believe our programme is step in the right direction for young people who are interested or curious about what the apprenticeship pathway could offer them. 

Apprenticeships in the current climate 

Apprenticeships are likely to be hugely impacted by the crisis, with current and potential apprentices from lower socio-economic backgrounds particularly vulnerable. We’ve written about the potential impacts in our recent report, and will be releasing more in depth research on the issue soon.

It is more essential than ever we equip this cohort of young people with the skills and knowledge to navigate the ever changing apprenticeship landscape so they do not miss out on valuable opportunities.  

The programme

Our programme will tackle the inequities in the information and guidance young people receive and ensure students can make an informed choice about whether an apprenticeship is right for them. It will run over 3-days between 13th-15th July and will be delivered digitally for this summer. 

The programme will include: 

  • Interactive sessions run by leading employers, including an introduction to their business and what they look for in candidates.
  • Information sessions on degree level apprenticeships, including the variety of apprenticeships available, what an apprenticeship may entail, the balance of work and study.
  • Interaction with current apprentices, including question and answer sessions and panel discussions.
  • Information sessions on the application process, including where and when to make applications, and the processes employers will use in recruiting apprentices to their competitive programmes.
  • Skills development sessions, including preparation for interview and the selection processes.

We will be evaluating the pilot programme against our wider programmes’ theory of change, which looks to impact students’ confidence, decision making and skills to navigate processes. We will use this evaluation to understand if the content and sessions have an impact on students’ attitudes and behaviours. We will also be tracking students to see if the programme increases access to degree level apprenticeships. If successful, we will look to develop and expand the programme in future years. 

Wider influence 

Beyond impact on young people, the Apprenticeship Summer School will also allow employers to access the talent young people have to offer and develop a deeper understanding of barriers that may be preventing disadvantaged young people from successfully acquiring apprenticeships. We know employers highlight performance in applications, interviews and group assessments as key barriers to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds being successful in obtaining a position. Our aim is to support employers to actively engage with young people from less advantaged backgrounds to support students to develop the skills and knowledge to navigate the competitive application processes to degree-level apprenticeships, whilst also informing their own application processes.

In delivering this programme, alongside our research and campaigns, we hope to lift the prestige of apprenticeships and ensure they are a valuable, respected and above all, accessible, pathway to all young people. We are very much looking forward to piloting the programme and sharing what we’ve learnt moving forward.

We will be working in partnership with Amazing Apprenticeships, Accenture, Bentley, Coca-Cola European Partners, NatWest Markets, PWC, RBS, (Defence Equipment and Support (Ministry of Defence) to deliver the Sutton Trust Apprenticeship Summer School.

Applications are open until 28th May and students can apply here.

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