Amazing Apprenticeships will be supporting the delivery of the new Sutton Trust Apprenticeship Summer School. Their director, Anna Morrison CBE, shares her insights on how schools can promote apprenticeships to their students.

In 2012, Ofsted concluded that “apprenticeships were rarely promoted effectively, especially in schools and sixth forms”. Since then, great strides have been made and in 2015, Amazing Apprenticeships was launched to provide teachers and careers advisers with interesting, engaging and high-quality information about apprenticeships.

The Government’s Careers Strategy aims to ensure that schools and colleges are equipped and supported to meet their statutory duty to inform and inspire their students about the range of apprenticeship opportunities available. This is partly achieved through having a named Careers Leader for their establishment. Whilst many schools have thoroughly embraced this requirement, sadly there are still too many schools who are not doing enough to ensure that students, and their families, are informed.

Through working in schools, Amazing Apprenticeships have gained a valuable insight into the most effective approaches of challenging and changing the stigma linked to apprenticeships being a second-rate option. These are:

  1. It starts from the top

Schools with Senior Leadership Teams who are positive about empowering students and their families with choice are the most effective. This will include providing their Careers Leader with adequate time to drive forward their work, ensuring that all staff are well trained and informed about apprenticeships and other options, by ensuring regular opportunities for students, staff and parents to hear about apprenticeships and in leading by example by having apprentices employed as part of the school workforce.

  1. Equal access to all students

The best schools ensure that all students, regardless of their academic ability or anticipated destination are given the opportunity to find out about the full range of apprenticeships and the levels available. This is not selective, but entirely inclusive and is not directed just at degree apprenticeships. Students are encouraged to understand the application and recruitment process as intensively as those who might be applying to full time university and the two routes are treated equally.

  1. Support structures for dealing with rejection

The schools that put programmes in place to support their students to be resilient with the apprenticeship recruitment process are making great strides in improving success. It can be extremely difficult for students to understand that they need to make multiple apprenticeship applications, at different times throughout the year, to different employers. Dealing with inevitable knock-backs and rejection is extremely hard. However, some schools are handling this brilliantly by creating peer support networks, assigning tutors to assist with application forms and bringing in experts from industry to help them with the process.

  1. Think about the wider school community

Apprenticeship knowledge cannot just be something that schools talk to students about. Parents and carers need to have as much detailed understanding and support as their children, so that they can help them. Schools are creating networks, advisory groups, creating opportunities for parents to meet with local employers, finding ways to connect them with parents of children who have taken the apprenticeship pathway, providing them with regular updates such as the monthly Parents’ Pack and ensuring that there is a regular positive message going home about apprenticeships.

  1. Celebrate and praise your students

Schools that celebrate their students for securing apprenticeship places are seeing the greatest impact in changing the status and reputation of apprenticeships. By celebrating those that progress onto an apprenticeship, a ‘can-do’ culture develops. Students are not made to feel that they have not performed as well as their peers if they do not decide to follow the path into full-time university, but instead they are supported, encouraged and praised as highly as others. The celebration of this achievement impacts the school community for years to come and creates a lasting legacy of positivity.

Now working with more than 4,000 establishments across England, Amazing Apprenticeships find that the demand from schools to access up-to-date information about apprenticeships for their students, colleagues and parents is greater than ever. Although there is still much more to be done to ensure every young person receives good quality, impartial careers advice in order to make an informed decision about whether an apprenticeship could be the right next step for them, it is promising to see many schools starting to take steps in the right direction.

Anna Morrison CBE is the Director of Amazingapprenticeships.com, a company who are passionate about transforming knowledge and awareness around apprenticeships and technical education.

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