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Apprenticeships versus degrees: a disaster in the making

16 May 2011

4:06 PM

16 May 2011

4:06 PM

There was a really interesting piece in the Observer business section this weekend
balancing up the value of degrees and apprenticeships. “A perception
prevails, particularly among middle-class families, that choosing a path other than university is a mark of failure, a fact that concerns both employers and advocates for vocational education such
as City & Guilds,” wrote Tom Bawden.

This government (and indeed the last) was very keen to encourage young people to do an apprenticeship. But I wonder how many MPs went down this route or would encourage their children to do so?

The Observer article followed comments earlier in the week from Jill McDonald, the appropriately named head of McDonald’s in the UK. McDonald said there was too much snobbery about
workplace education and she is right.

I completely understand the drive to get more people to go to university. But we are now reaping the whirlwind of the hugely ill-judged 50 per cent target.

Anecdotally, from talking to the young people I work with, it seems that a degree from a minor university does not make you more employable. I know senior figures in the Labour Party who are waking
up to the fact that young people now believe they were sold a pup. A lower second class degree from an obscure institution that has only just received university status is a waste of money. Young
people who have gone through the system and found their degree has not helped them land a job are warning their younger siblings not to go down this route.

At the same time, the apprenticeship system as it stands is not fit-for-purpose. Most of the money spent on them goes to the FE colleges and there is very little incentive for employers (especially
small businesses) to get involved.

All in all the situation is a disaster.

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