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Young people claim schools in Kent are not raising awareness of apprenticeships

By Chris Price

Apprentices claim schools in Kent are not doing enough to raise awareness of the career route in the classroom.

The primary focus of teachers is still to encourage young people to complete A-levels and eventually progress towards university, they said.

Florence English, 18, from Gillingham, started an apprenticeship at Kent Scientific Services in West Malling in September.

Apprentices Chris North and Florence English

She said she had only been made aware of apprenticeships “very briefly” at school.

“At my school it was very much ‘do you A-levels and go to university’,” she said.

“There was a little bit about apprenticeships but not much. I had to mainly do it myself.

“There wasn’t much support at my school.

“Schools need to push apprenticeships a lot more so it is the same as university. I don’t see why apprenticeships are seen as any less than going to university.

Angela Middleton, Cllr Paul Carter and Jonathan Neame join apprentices for the launch of Kent County Council's Made in Kent campaign

“There are apprenticeships now where you get the same as degree level so you are gaining the same qualification as going to uni but not getting all of the debt.”

The comments come as Kent County Council has launched a new campaign pledging to double the number of people starting apprenticeships to more than 22,000 by 2020.

Nearly a dozen apprentices paraded the streets of Faversham with giant letters spelling out the name of the initiative, Made In Kent, on March 7.

One of them was Chris North, an apprentice at the Research Network, a phamaceutical research consultancy based at Discovery Park in Sandwich.

“At school, it was only mentioned to me that apprenticeships were something that were for an old-style vocational job if you wanted to go into manual labour, be an electrician or do crafts work,” said the 23-year-old from Eythorne, near Dover.

“I would like to see teachers and schools raise awareness and not shoot it down because of any preconceived notions they may have about it...” - apprentice Chris North, the Research Network

“If you wanted that specific career that was all you could do and it wasn’t as effective as college or university.

“I would very much like to see that change.

“I would like to see teachers and schools raise awareness and not shoot it down because of any preconceived notions they may have about it.”

The KM Group is running its Kick Start Kent campaign with the aim of raising awareness of apprenticeships as a route towards a career.

Olympia Brightley-Hodges, an apprentice with consultancy Family Business Place in Detling, said: “There is definitely not enough awareness about becoming an apprentice.

“I came out of school three years ago and it is only recently that I’ve heard about it.

“Going to a grammar school, it was unheard of. It was not really an option they pushed.

“There were careers advisers you would meet with but it was all about uni.”

Leigh Academies Trust, which looks after 10,000 pupils at 15 academy schools in Kent and south east London, has above average numbers of pupils taking apprenticeships.

Leigh UTC principal Steve Leahey

“Perhaps there is still a stigma around apprenticeships,” said business partnership manager Louisa Felstead.

“We engage with business and are increasingly doing so. We make sure children are aware of their options as early as possible, having conversations from Year 8.”

One of its schools is Leigh UTC in Dartford, which received a “good with outstanding features” report from Ofsted in February.

Alongside its 200 pupils, aged 14 to 19, it trains 10 engineering apprentices one day a week and plans to take on another 15 next year plus another 15 in IT.

Principal Steve Leahey said: “What helps us is that we have our own apprenticeship programme and other students realise it’s interesting.

“For many years apprenticeships were a dirty word and seen as cheap labour. Now when you show people the fantastic work which goes on with apprenticeships it’s no longer the poor relation.”

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