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Too good to be true - Will the apprenticeship bubble burst?

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 4th December 2012

It never ceases to amaze me that more people do not take up apprenticeships. Part of the issue is that younger students view an apprenticeship as a university degree’s poor cousin and believe that employers prefer degrees. Also many employers don’t fully understand the benefits involved not just financial but also in terms of getting an employee and moulding them to work the way they want.

However with University fees on the up more students are slowly coming round to the idea that apprenticeships are a good thing. Also according to a recent survey from CITB construction skills of 300 employers, most felt that felt apprenticeships better prepared and educated candidates than degrees and in fact the apprenticeship was far a more preferable option.

Following the IT boom in the 90’s and early 2000’s a skills gap was left in blue collar trades. Those already working in the manual trades have enjoyed increasing wages plus the benefits of not being tied down to a desk all day.  As more and more people realise this apprenticeships in manual trades are becoming ever more popular.

Financially the current situation is exceptional. An apprentice will receive:

A regular salary

Free fully funded training

Actual work experience whilst they train

A much greater chance of gaining full employment at the end of a 3-4 year period

Compared to a University student who is now likely to walk out of Uni with up to £30,000 worth of debt this looks very very appealing.

With the current climate of spending cuts I predict it won’t be too long before someone takes a look at this and realises it is almost too good to be true and wields the axe to much of the apprenticeship funding.

There is a major shakeup coming next year in 2013 when the student loans system is going to expand the range of qualifications it covers to include many vocational courses. This will open up a range of courses such as the City & Guilds 2365 and many more to be paid for by a student loan which can be paid back once the candidate finds employment. This is great news for mature students but is this a precursor to moving the apprenticeship funding further towards a loans system?

For now we are a long way off the bubble bursting especially as the government is committed to expanding and improving the apprenticeship programme. However as the numbers of apprenticeships grow year on year there will come a time when heads will turn and all eyes will be on the apprenticeship programme and it’s increased funding.

Unfortunately although the current status quo seems very favourable there is still one major stumbling block holding the apprenticeship scheme back. Not enough employers are willing to take on an apprentice and for every apprenticeship place out there often there are 80+ applicants! Part of the reason for this is that the majority of people working in the construction industry are micro business of just 1-5 staff who do not think they could take on an apprentice.

We need to raise awareness with these people and ensure that they fully understand the benefits including the £1500 golden handshake for taking someone on. Here at Trade Skills 4U we are working on promoting this to all in the centre and amongst all of our partners.  If you know anyone interested in an electrical apprenticeship please call 01293 529777.

We welcome your thoughts and comments on this topic. Am I being pessimistic or realistic?