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More schools need to raise awareness of the apprenticeship option, say college bosses

By Chris Price

Schools and parents remain a barrier to young people who may be interested in applying for an apprenticeship, according to training providers.

Many colleges remain sceptical whether schools are doing all they can to raise awareness of the option of apprenticeships.

This is despite the number of apprenticeship starts across Kent rising dramatically over the last 10 years, with 13,940 started in 2015/16 compared to 3,970 in 2005/06.

Awareness of apprenticeships is growing among school leavers, say college bosses
Awareness of apprenticeships is growing among school leavers, say college bosses

MidKent College executive director Chris Hare said: “There needs to be more awareness not just at school level but also at parental level.

“Schools need to provide effective advice and guidance and equally parents need to have their knowledge updated about what the options really are.

“There is a lot that needs to be done about raising the profile of apprenticeships as a serious destination for young people aged 16. It is getting better but it needs to improve further.”

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, deputy chief executive and prinicipal at college operator Hadlow Group, said: “School and academies have their own priorities and agendas and have to run as businesses.

Hadlow Group deputy chief executive and principal Mark Lumsdon-Taylor
Hadlow Group deputy chief executive and principal Mark Lumsdon-Taylor

“For schools it’s a challenge because they need to do what is right for young people but also have to promote their own opportunities. I would try to hold on to my core business as much as I can. I hope schools are receptive to giving them opportunity.

“Are we doing enough? Most definitely not but it is harder now because there are so many channels where people can access information.”

Pauline Smith, chief executive of young people’s charity CXK, said much has changed since her days helping to deliver apprenticeships at Kent County Council in the early 2000s.

She said: “Six or seven years ago we didn’t have a lot going on with apprenticeships. If you weren’t academic or bright you would go on an apprenticeship.

Pauline Smith has been appointed chief executive of CXK
Pauline Smith has been appointed chief executive of CXK

“The good thing now is apprenticeships are more attractive to young people than they ever were. That has changed dramatically.”

However, she said a question mark remains over whether schools direct enough young people towards apprenticeships.

She said: “History says schools haven’t been raising awareness of apprenticeships. That is a fact.

“I’m hoping that apprenticeships are seen as a more credible route and schools will have a more open and objective view in informing young people that they can go down that route.

“Raising the participation age [where young people have to stay in a form of education until 18, including apprenticeships] has led some schools to inform young people they have got to stay on at school until they are 18 and that is not the case.”

The KM Group is launching the Kick Start Kent campaign aimed at creating a better environment for employers to hire apprentices and for people to start a career using the route.

The campaign was first run three years ago, when it led to 88 employers hiring an apprentice in the county, and is returning to champion apprenticeships again.

Its key focuses are:

Apprenticeship finishes

The government set itself a target of getting three million people to start apprenticeships by 2020 but this figure is worthless unless people are finishing the courses and benefiting the economy. What can be done to improve completion rates?

Apprenticeship reforms

Are measure like the apprenticeship levy being correctly and fairly administered and improving the environment for apprenticeships?


Are schools, colleges and parents making students aware of the option?

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