Right now, thousands of 18-year-olds across the UK are filled with nervousness and excitement ahead of tomorrow’s A-Level results. At the same time, hundreds of providers and employers are also looking forward to welcoming the next wave of talented young apprentices into their workplaces.
Among them are more than 5,400 young people who undertook T-Levels this year to prepare them for pursuing a higher apprenticeship, with 10 T-Level subjects being taught by 102 providers.
While the T-Level programme is still in its infancy, it has the potential to radically reshape the UK’s education system and help it rise to the challenges posed by the country’s economic outlook.
There is a strong appetite for quality apprenticeships on all sides – when the system works well, it enriches both learners and providers alike. Learners get to earn while they learn, benefit from valuable training and graduate debt-free, while providers are given the opportunity to find and nurture young talent in their industry and recruit them into full time employment once their training is complete.
Much has already been said of the critical skills gaps that need to be filled in a range of sectors from construction and technology. Apprenticeships are key to achieving this – which is why skills and further education have been a top priority in devolution deals across the UK. Local authorities are taking back the power to build the skills their regions need, attracting investment and Levelling Up.
But beyond the economic benefits of enticing more school leavers to take up apprenticeships, there is an equally important human benefit to providing a range of education options for young people to suit their skills and ambitions. There is a growing awareness that many 18-year-olds applying for university places might be better suited to an apprenticeship path. In fact, a recent report found 86 per cent of teachers believe more students should take up apprenticeships.
Awareness is also growing of how lucrative apprenticeship pathways can be, offering the opportunity to ‘learn as you earn’ in highly competitive fields like finance and technology. Starting their career early and graduating debt-free can in many ways put apprentices ahead of their peers.
If every young person anxiously awaiting tomorrow’s results knew the full range of rewarding apprenticeships available to them, how many might have applied for a different path?
For the UK’s apprenticeship system to succeed and thrive, it is vital that apprenticeship providers, Government and educators work together to ensure every school leaver makes an informed decision about their future.
There are many ways industry providers could help Government ensure young people are equipped with better information, like visiting schools in their local area to talk about apprenticeship pathways and helping schools develop stronger relationships with industry.
Both Government and providers need an apprenticeship system that boosts the UK economy and provides the skills and expertise needed to drive investment and growth. An employer-led approach with close collaboration between industry and Government is the best way to make that a reality – and it starts with the talented young people and the big decisions they will make this week.