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Apprentices better off than graduates

31009898_mUK: Ill-informed parental guidance and poor careers advice could mean many young people missing out on the fulfilling and lucrative career an apprenticeship could provide.

According to a new report from the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), launched in advance of this week’s National Apprentice week, people with an Advanced Level Apprenticeship earn on average over £100,000 more over the course of their career than those without. 

It is said that money is the greatest influencing factor for 60% of teens in choice of career but, despite compelling examples of former apprentices who have made it onto the UK’s rich lists, parental influence and a lack of adequate careers advice are hampering careers choices.

Parents are said to be the largest single influencers on teens’ career choices but only 52% believe that apprenticeships are able to offer the same opportunities, professional and financial as traditional academic routes. However, 22% of parents say they would discourage – or are unsure whether they would encourage – their children from doing an apprenticeship and 30% cite low pay as the main reason.

To debunk that myth, AAT names the top 40 richest former apprentices and reveals their combined wealth of £20bn. Leading AAT’s Apprenticeship Rich List is Lord Bamford, ex-apprentice at Massey Ferguson and current chairman of JCB, but other former apprentices listed include Jim McColl, billionaire owner of Clyde Blowers and, closer to home, City Refrigeration’s Willie Haughey who has amassed a £210m fortune, a knighthood and life peerage.

The research conducted on behalf of AAT found that only 33% of parents would encourage their children to do an apprenticeship whereas 12% would not. However, the increase in university tuition fees and student debt is starting to have a noticeable effect upon public opinion, according to the AAT report. 40% of the parents questioned went to university yet when asked whether they would still have gone if, like today’s graduates, they had left with £50,000 of debt, 27% of them said they would have done an apprenticeship instead. As a result of increased university fees, almost half (45%) of parents would encourage their children to do an apprenticeship.

The lack of adequate careers advice is evident in the fact that 41% of teens did not know that ‘white collar’ apprenticeships in professions such as accountancy and law exist. The top three sectors people associated with apprenticeships were construction (58%), electrical (56%) and plumbing (56%).

The number of apprenticeship starts in England are reported to have risen by 152% between 2005/6 and 2013/14 and now, in an about-face after years of the UK government encouraging school leavers to enter university, the current regime is backing National Apprentice week.

The reported figures make stark reading. With 49% of school-leavers likely to enter university, the latest ONS figures reveal that 47% of graduates are in roles that do not require a degree. In addition, according to the AAT report, the changes to student funding and the prospect of leaving university with massive debts, averaging more than £44,000, makes opting for an apprenticeship, instead of going to university, an increasingly attractive option.

The report also highlights the huge benefits to employers and dismisses one popular myth: after finishing an apprenticeship, the majority (85%) will stay in employment, with 64% staying with the same employer.

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