Marking the start of National Apprenticeship Week 2023, our National Apprenticeship Taskforce Manager and former teacher, Jane Lilleyman, shares her tips on how teachers can help young people engage with apprenticeships. 

Now we have arrived at National Apprenticeship Week, I have taken a moment to reflect on my time at the Sutton Trust as the National Apprenticeship Taskforce Manager. Over the last two months, I have fully immersed myself in the landscape of apprenticeships. It sure is complex! And it’s easy to see why young people, parents, educators, and employers find apprenticeships difficult to navigate.

National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) is an opportunity for the education and skills sector to celebrate the achievements of apprentices around the country and the positive impact they make to communities, businesses, and the wider economy.

Apprenticeships have been long heralded as a vehicle for increasing social mobility. No debt, earn while you learn, economic well-being, filling labour market needs and addressing the skills shortage are just a few of the benefits.

But there are several challenges around access, supply and the quality of apprenticeships, and our research has found that twice as many young people from higher income families are securing places on degree apprenticeship pathways, compared to those young people from low socio-economic backgrounds.

As a former teacher I know the fundamental role that teachers and schools can play in moving the dial from within their settings. I taught in a state school and was a big advocate for vocational pathways. As a sixth form tutor, I supported many students through this pathway. It’s not easy and the systems in schools and colleges are often not set-up to encourage our young people to go down the apprenticeship route. But in my 14 years of teaching, I have learnt some tips and tricks that can make a difference to how young people engage with apprenticeships and how schools can really support young people explore their options so they can make informed choices about their futures.

  1. Building parallel pathways to ensure young people are educated around apprenticeships
  • If you are delivering talks on higher education, aim to always include talks on apprenticeships. This can be difficult if you do not have this expertise or knowledge already built in so look for experts who can fill these gaps by reaching out to organisations working in this space.
  • When talking about the UCAS application process, aim to also give guidance on apprenticeship applications so young people understand both systems and know what they will need to do.
  • When engaging with parents and families on post-18 options, have options presented together so we build parity of esteem for all routes.
  • Use the Ask Programme or Amazing Apprenticeships to access their fantastic free teacher resources!
  1. Showcase the benefits of apprenticeships
  • You might have an alumnus who has been through the apprenticeship route – invite them back to speak about their experience, how they went about the process and allow time for questions and discussions.
  • Reach out to local businesses that recruit apprentices and invite them to come and speak to students., The Find an Apprenticeship website is a great place to see which employers are currently recruiting.
  • Encourage any young people interested in apprenticeships to take part in as much industry exposure as possible – this could be through work placements, insight events or work shadowing. Many of these opportunities are available online so students can take part without having to travel long distances.
  1. Train the trainers
  • Encourage teachers, across curriculum to include industry examples and career pathways in their subjects wherever and whenever possible.
  • Look at holding lunch and learn sessions where you can educate colleagues about the benefits of apprenticeships, the range of pathways and share practical tools for how they can support young people interested in this route.
  • Create ways of embedding change within your school systems so apprenticeships and higher education have equal representation.

These are just a handful of things that have made a difference in the places that I have worked and the young people that I have engaged with. There are plenty of great activities taking place across National Apprenticeship Week aimed at schools, young people, and families. Encourage your network to engage.

If you have any young people in your school, college or networks that are interested in apprenticeships, our Apprenticeship Summer School could be a brilliant way for them to learn more or teaching colleagues could attend our webinar on Tuesday at 4pm around Making higher & degree apprenticeships accessible and attainable for students to kickstart their own learning.

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