Report Overview

A background report by Ian Nash to the Sutton Trust/Pearson Higher Ambitions summit in July 2014. The report includes data on apprenticeships and vocational education, and the results of polling for the Sutton Trust and Pearson on attitudes to apprenticeships and skills.

Key Findings
  • 34% of adults in England aged 16-75 say a degree-level apprenticeship would be better for somebody’s future career prospects than a university degree, compared to 21% who think a traditional degree would be better.
  • Just under two thirds (63%) of adults in England believe that most apprenticeships should be set at A-level standard (Level 3) or higher, whereas government data show that two thirds of apprenticeships started by young people in 2012/13 were only at GCSE standard (Level 2).
  • 56% of parents say they are likely to encourage their children to consider a university degree, while only 40% would encourage them to consider an apprenticeship.
  • More than half (55%) of young people aged 11-16 say they would be interested in an apprenticeship rather than going to university if it was available in a job they wanted to do, but only 31% say that their teachers have ever discussed the idea of apprenticeships with them at school.
  • Only 26% of teachers think (to a great or some extent) there are enough apprenticeships available at A-level standard or higher and 65% said they would rarely or never advise a student to take an apprenticeship if they had the grades for university.
  • The 2014 Pearson/CBI skills survey emphasises the need for high quality skills in the workplace. While two-thirds (69%) of employers rate their employees’ skills as good, they are aware of weaknesses in core competences such as literacy (54%) and numeracy (53%).
  • Firms are also conscious of the supply of skilled people needed as the economy grows, with 23% “unconfident”, saying they cannot fill key roles. The survey also showed that business leaders believe there is a need for more apprentices and young people with advanced and higher vocational skills.