You could be forgiven for a sense of deja vu over today’s story that top performing A-level students are shunning going to university to take up apprenticeships.
What goes around comes around. Apprenticeships were very much in vogue in the 1950’s and 60’s. Now they are back in fashion.
There is one difference, though, and it is crucial one. The university places just weren’t there in the 50’s and 60’s. Apprenticeships were the only option for many.
I welcome their return - it’s just a pity that they seem to have gained their new popularity through the negative route of would-be students being put off by the rise in university fees to £9,000 a year.
And we have to guard against any snobbish attitude towards them and hope no-one dismisses them on the grounds they don’t cut the mustard. No “sorry, dear boy, but I mean - only an apprentice!” then. You have to get to the situation where a parent is just as proud of a child for adopting this route as going for a traditional university course.
The reason I like apprenticeships is they can provide the skills sets needed by particular industries. If a school leaver knows his or her mind and what they want to do, why not opt for them.
In a funny way, they are delivering on the target set by Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister when he set a target of 50 per cent of young people going on to higher education. He never meant they should all be taking academic subjects at the country’s most elite universities. This, I believe, is the kind of mix he wanted but the message never quite got across.