Apprenticeships: Their place in the modern world

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Extract of the speech given by The Lord Mayor of LondonAlderman Dr Andrew Parmley at the Livery Education Conference ‘Apprenticeships: Their place in the modern world’ Friday 7 July 2017

Why aren’t young people seeing apprenticeships as a valid career path? It is true that too many of our apprentices are in low quality low level apprenticeships, with low completion rates and little hope of progression. However, this is changing, there is a real drive to meet future skills needs through apprenticeships. Many employers now offer higher or degree level apprenticeships, or progression routes through the levels.

Top brand employers are offering well paid, well-structured apprenticeships. For level 5 apprentices, they are likely to earn £50,000 more in their lifetime than someone with an undergraduate degree from a university outside of the Russell Group, taking home close to £1.5m over their career.

Apprenticeships are no longer reserved for those unable to get into university – they are available to those that are unwilling to go to university. The average university debt is now £44k. And some of our brightest and the best feel uncomfortable with this level of debt, especially those from a low income background who are proven to be more debt adverse than their peers.

Higher level or Degree level apprenticeships, where you ‘earn while you learn’ could provide a solution.

A recent Ofsted report found that in ‘too many’ schools, technical and vocational education was associated with lower-attaining pupils, or those with “challenging” behaviour, and that university applications were prioritised before those for apprenticeships. The report also found that schools are increasingly promoting apprenticeships – but there is clearly more to be done. Schools can receive free government funded apprenticeship support for teachers and pupils in years 10, 11, 12 and 13. More details can be found at

It is not just the schools that need to take action. Parents, teachers and pupils are quite rightly skeptical of apprenticeships as there are too many low quality, low paid apprenticeships with little opportunity for progression. If employers want to make the most of their mandatory levy payments, they must improve the quality of apprenticeships in order to attract our young people.