UK Government wants you to get fired up about apprenticeships

While university is often touted as the ‘be-all and end-all’, it isn’t for everyone; nor is it necessary to acquire employment and earn a good living in an industry you love. In recognition of this, the UK Government has initiated a new programme, known as ‘Fire It Up’, to promote apprenticeships as an alternative.

University vs. an apprenticeship – which is best?

Many students face this dilemma, and it can be really tough to decide. Firstly, many simply don’t yet know what they will do when they leave school. Secondly, teachers, friends and family can pressure teens into pursuing higher education. In fact, according to a recent survey, 30% of students worldwide go to university because they think it’s the natural progression after high school, and 23% only go because it’s expected of them.

But is university all it’s cracked up to be? A lot depends on what you want out of it. You would probably benefit from college if:

  • Your chosen career path requires a degree
  • You want to pursue postgraduate studies or go into research
  • You have the time and money for college

On the other hand, if your goal is to earn a good living, the trades and other blue-collar jobs can be just as lucrative. According to the survey mentioned above, after a 10-year period, a worker with a one-year trade certificate earned a median wage of only $1,347 less per year than a person with a degree. Pretty amazing given that college education is significantly more expensive and may incur a massive debt.

In terms of the learning, in an article for the Guardian, an adviser for the National Careers Service said: “University is usually very much based around education, rather than aiming for a particular career. So, it may be that if you get a degree, you are able to apply for quite a wide range of different jobs. Whereas, on an apprenticeship, the training and the skills you gain are quite specific to that particular industry…”

Why we need apprentices

Statistics reported on by the UK Government tell us that:

  • 8 in 10 managers see apprentices as an important part of growing their business
  • Employers report benefits such as improved productivity, improved product or service quality, as well as the new ideas apprentices bring to their organisation
  • The right people and skills are 10 times more important to expansion than access to finance
  • Apprentice employers are 5 times as likely to rapidly expand people’s businesses

The problem is that, in many countries, apprenticeship-based positions are not being filled. In the Australian state of New South Wales, for example, up to 1500 apprenticeship and traineeship positions – in areas such as the automotive, hospitality, electrical, construction and timber industries – went unfilled in 2018. Furthermore, the state had an astonishing 48 per cent less apprentices and trainees in 2016 than in 2012.

Why the downturn in apprenticeship numbers?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s causing the downturn in apprentice and trainee numbers. Some blame businesses for not taking on more apprentices due to the perceived financial burden, while others blame the well-funded and aggressive marketing campaigns by universities that promote college-based education as the only legitimate career path. At other times, it may simply come down to peer or family pressure, often based on snobby, ill-informed and outdated views.

Whatever the case, apprenticeships need more air time. The good news is, a new programme is promoting them and supporting trainees in the UK. It’s known as ‘Fire It Up’.

The UK Government promotes apprenticeships

A news release by the UK Government states: ‘The Department for Education has launched its new ‘Fire it Up’ campaign to help raise awareness of the huge variety of apprenticeship options available for people of all ages and backgrounds.’

It will do so by way of TV and social media advertising campaigns, and a new website that will provide guidance on the options available to students. Moreover, a clause was added to the UK’s Technical and Further Education Act of 2017 which ‘stipulates that schools must allow colleges and training providers access to every student in Years 8 to 13 to discuss non-academic routes that are available to them’.

What do you think?

Do you think apprenticeships are important for a progressing society? Have you considered doing one? Do you think the ‘Fire It Up’ campaign will stimulate the needed interest in non-academic career paths?

Whatever the case, it’s important to remember that university, apprenticeships and traineeships are all valid options – it just depends on what’s right for you. As the saying goes, there is “more than one way to crack an egg”.

As long as you make an omelette.