Research released today by the National Union of Students (NUS) has revealed that over 20 per cent of apprentices had never received information from a careers service, while over half of undergraduates had not been notified of available opportunities to become an apprentice. The project commissioned by the NUS has shown potholes in pathways to work under this government.
Those who had received guidance were often dissatisfied with its quality. Almost half of the 444 students in higher education surveyed scored services at university campuses as either barely acceptable or very poor. Over fifth of the students in higher education involved in the project would consider working as an apprentice, seeing the opportunity to gain relevant work experience.
While there are examples where excellent careers guidance and support has been of great benefit to individuals, research suggests such examples are far from the norm. The lack of proficiency in information services amounts to an inequality of opportunity. Common sense dictates that vocational education, like attaining a university degree will not suit everybody. Nonetheless, it failure of services to inform individuals of the options available to them remains a considerable concern.
Information was not the only highlighted barrier to an accessible vocational education. No less than 65 per cent of respondents identified that the minimum wage for apprentices (£2.65), which is far below what those aged 21 and above earn on the minimum wage (£6.91), was a significant factor in preventing the possibility of undertaking an apprenticeship. Over half reported other financial concerns from travel costs to supporting dependents during study.
Toni Pearce, the President of the NUS, believes that this new information proves that the current legislation surrounding the provision of advice as well as the minimum wage is not strong enough. Pearce in a press conference at the NUS Student Media Summit called for ‘a no holds barred review of information, advice and guidance to ensure it is fit for purpose’. She also advocated strengthening the appropriate role of OFSTED and a youth guidance centre ‘that works’.
Pearce further disclosed at the NUS Student Media Summit: ‘education has changed, and the old route that ends with a three year full time undergraduate degree no longer needs to be the norm. The lack of proper careers advice about the available study options and pathways to work is failing young people. Students need the information and tools to thrive, whatever their learning journey.’
Later this year the NUS will launch the National Society of Apprentices. According to Vice President Rachel Mattey, the society will give apprentices the ‘protection and power they deserve’.
The Norwich South Liberal Democrats have declined to comment.