A major cultural shift in the thinking of tomorrow’s young people lies behind the decision by ministers to increase funding for degree-level apprenticeships.
Business Secretary Vince Cable he wanted it be the “new norm” for teenagers to put universities and apprenticeships on an equal footing when deciding their future career paths.
To this end, the Government is earmarking an extra £20 million to support degree-level and postgraduate apprenticeships in subjects like engineering and construction.
They would allow young people to earn a wage and get a proper insight into the working environment while studying for their degrees, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said.
In addition, a further £170 million will be earmarked over the next two years towards grants for employers to take on 16- to 24-year-olds as apprentices.
The move towards degree-level apprenticeships conjures up an image of some universities going back to the role they had before the 1990s as polytechnics when they specialised in vocational-style degree courses.
Mr Cable said: “We want it to be the new norm that young people either choose to go to university or begin an apprenticeship.
“Additional funding to support degree level apprenticeships will make this a reality and also put universities and vocational education on the same footing.”
The announcement was welcomed by university lecturers’ leaders, with the general secretary of the University and College Union, Sally Hunt, saying: “Apprenticeships have the potential to be this country’s success story and we welcome the news of extra places from the Chancellor.”
However, she added: “We support more apprenticeships and greater opportunities for all but the government must provide the necessary funds.
“Apprentices should receive the national minimum wage, not less than £3 an hour as they can currently be paid. We would like to see longer apprenticeships, with a minimum of three years, to ensure people receive a well-rounded education.”