Vocational education: the start of a successful career

Apprenticeships shouldn't feel like the poor relation in the job market, says Stephen Gardner

The exam results period is a stressful time for young people and parents alike. It can be difficult for parents to get impartial advice on the number of options available to young people today.

Perhaps not surprisingly, recent research by the Learning and Skills Council reveals that parents get more stressed than their children during the exam results period. Of over 2,000 people surveyed, a whopping 80 per cent of parents believe it will be harder for their children to find gainful employment than it was for them. In stark contrast, over two-thirds (68 per cent) of young people are optimistic about their career.

This contrast in confidence could be attributed to many things, not least an outdated opinion of modern educational routes. For example, if your child is looking for a challenging and rewarding career that pairs real-life work experience with a bank of transferable skills and qualifications, would an Apprenticeship spring to mind?

Vocational education has come a long way from the days of chimney sweeps and tailors. There are over 200 different types of Apprenticeships available today, in more than 80 sectors. Young people can opt for careers in business administration, media studies, engineering, event management, hospitality and manufacturing to name but a few. At present, there are over 270,000 young apprentices in England, working in over 130,000 businesses, and every one of them is working towards a more employable future.

An Apprenticeship marks the start of a successful career for young people aged 16 to 24, giving them work experience with on- and off-the-job training and, maybe most importantly, they will be earning a wage.

An Apprenticeship offers structured training with an employer and training provider, where learning is constantly monitored and performance checked. As well as a nationally recognised qualification, an Apprenticeship provides valuable work experience in the company your child will progress into. More and more apprentices now go on to do a degree following completion of their training, and the cost is often picked up by their employer - a testament to how highly employers value their apprentices.

According to a survey carried out by the LSC, 27 per cent of employers said Apprenticeships were the ideal qualification for potential employees, rating this form of vocational training higher than any other qualification. In fact, some of the biggest names in business offer Apprenticeships, including BT, Vodafone, British Gas, Orange and Bentley Motors.

Perhaps the best way to sum up the benefits of Apprenticeships to young people is through the words of apprentices themselves.

Matthew McCarry, an engineering apprentice from Cumbria, says: "My Apprenticeship has given me a lot more confidence and made me more determined. It's a great programme. I would definitely recommend it."

Stephen Gardner is the director of Apprenticeships at the Learning and Skills Council. If you are interested in finding out more about what Apprenticeship would be right for your child, please visit

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