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Jon Kennard


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Insight: Are apprenticeships still inferior to a university education?


CIPD calls for improved careers guidance to challenge perception that apprenticeships are mostly relevant to blue collar careers.

According to a survey of nearly 400 working parents, almost half believe that apprenticeships are more appropriate for manual or blue collar jobs and less than a fifth believe that apprenticeships have the same status as university education.

The survey also shows that only one in ten parents rank apprenticeships as their preferred qualification for their children, while nearly half would choose a university degree.

When asked what would make them believe that apprenticeships are a better career option, the top two reasons cited were:

  • More information about apprenticeships and related career options (less than a fifth of respondents agreed that teachers had provided their children with information about alternatives to university education)
  • More local employers offering apprenticeships

Peter Cheese, chief executive at the CIPD, commented: “Apprenticeships give young people the chance to learn and develop skills in the context of the workplace and enable employers to grow their own workforce and recruit from a more diverse pool of talent. But this new research shows that misperceptions about apprenticeships prevail, which is likely to impact the supply of potential candidates for employers that do offer apprenticeships and deter those that don’t from adapting their recruitment methods.

“A key objective of the CIPD’s Learning to Work programme has been to encourage more employers to offer high quality apprenticeship programmes, and the introduction of Higher Apprenticeships last year was designed to offer new access routes into professions, such as business administration and HR, which would normally require a university degree or academic qualification. But our research shows there is still work to be done to improve the parity of esteem between the many excellent employer-led apprenticeship programmes and university education. Our economy needs both routes to thrive.”

Katerina Rüdiger, skills policy adviser at the CIPD, added: “It’s not enough to convince employers that apprenticeships are a good idea, we also need to get the message out to potential candidates and their parents that apprenticeships are a good route into skilled jobs. In most cases, parents are the key influencers on young people’s education and career choices, so schools and employers need to reach out to them and make sure that they and their children have enough information about alternatives to university education. At the moment this is not the case, with many young people reporting that they had no or very little advice and guidance about apprenticeships.

“One way to change this is to get more employers to go into schools and talk about these opportunities and the career pathways in their organisations and sectors. The Education and Employers Taskforce’s Inspiring the Future programme already does great work in terms of matching employers with schools to give inspirational careers talks and we will be working with them to use this platform to raise awareness of apprenticeships over the next year.”

Skills CFA and the CIPD have developed a new Higher Apprenticeship in HR Management to provide an alternative route into the HR profession. For more information, visit

Author Profile Picture
Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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