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Lack of apprenticeship awareness is limiting career choices

Thirty-six per cent of parents of young people aged 11 to 16 in the UK don’t know what an apprenticeship is according to new research commissioned by facilities management solutions provider, ABM UK, signalling a wider awareness problem which is impacting career choices and creating a skills gaps in key industries.

The research also revealed that 68 per cent of young people don’t know what an apprenticeship is either, despite being at the age that they will start to make decisions about the direction of their career. 

However, parents appear to be the main influencers when it comes to career choices. When asked who or what affects these decisions, Mum and Dad together were number one (66 per cent), followed by teachers and school (41 per cent), the lessons children enjoy (31 enjoy) and then friends (14 per cent).  

The research, which surveyed 2,000 British parents of children aged 11 to 16 and 2,000 children aged 11 to 16, follows news of the T-levels programme and the Apprentice Levy – which aim to present young people with more choices in educational pathways. However, at the same time reports from the UK government show a decline in new apprentices for March 2018, which are down 28 per cent compared to the same period a year ago.

Further findings revealed that for those parents who knew what an apprenticeship was, just 14 per cent considered it to be a good option, with three times as many parents (42 per cent) saying that they wanted their children to attend university, despite crippling tuition fees and long-term debt prospects. 

The top reasons given for not encouraging their child to undertake an apprenticeship were that they were thought to be poorly paid (43 per cent), because they see it as a last resort for those who fail their exams (37 per cent), and that apprenticeships don’t lead to successful careers (17 per cent).

ABM UK Director, Adam Baker, commented: “We were shocked to find a genuine lack of knowledge on apprenticeships amongst parents, and that many still consider them to be a last resort for children who fail their exams. It shows a need for a more unified approach and a better way of communicating, especially with parents, whose influence alongside teachers is critical. 

 “When a young person is set to choose a university, there’s a huge amount of support from schools, parents and educational bodies such as UCAS. We need similar representation for apprenticeships and technical careers to ensure young people in the UK don’t miss out on enriching, lucrative and credible career options. It’s vital we give parents and schools more information and empower them to show children all the options open to them.

The engineering and facilities management industries are particularly disadvantaged by the awareness gap; 60 per cent of young people said that they were unlikely to even consider working in engineering or facilities management, with over a third (39 per cent) saying that they wouldn’t consider working in this area because they didn’t know anything about it. When asked, just a quarter of parents said they would encourage their children to consider careers in these areas

ABM UK commissioned the research as part of its ongoing commitment to attract new talent to the engineering and facilities management industry. In January this year it welcomed 36 West London schoolchildren into the pilot of its first-ever Junior Engineering Engagement Programme (J.E.E.P), which will be extended to further schools from September 2018.

Baker added: “Our programme aims to actively recruit new talent into the industry – it’s time to shake off the view that technical careers are about oily rags and no prospects. In reality recruits in this sector are in such high demand that graduate apprentices are earning between £26,000 and £30,000 just a year after qualifying – usually before they’re 20 years old – and they have no debt.”

In her role as an advocate of ABM UK’s J.E.E.P programme, Stemettes co-founder and CEO Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon was encouraged by some of the findings, she commented: “The report told us that just 16 per cent of young people considered technical roles to be ‘for boys’, but we know that 89 per cent of the UK’s current engineering workforce is male. That means that for 84 per cent of young people, a gender barrier has been crossed and that engineering and facilities management is well positioned to set the standard for better balance in the future. To make this happen we need to leverage the influence that parents and teachers have by giving them the right information.

“University is often publicised as the ‘only’ route but this is not true. Apprenticeships are a fantastic viable alternative, which allows young people to earn while they learn and then, often before they are 20 years of age, have debt-free foundations from which to build a solid, well-paid career. For many, this is the perfect route to a fulfilling and successful career – not enough people know about the breadth and availability of apprenticeships.”

Both the research and J.E.E.P. initiative  has been welcomed by the British Institute of Facilities Management. Linda Hausmanis, CEO at BIFM said: “The facilities and workplace management industry is currently experiencing a serious skills gap preventing it from reaching its full economic potential. This is a diverse industry with relatively low barriers to entry and yet excellent prospects, supported by a career pathway from entry to executive level.

“The awareness gap to potential opportunities highlighted by this research evidences a long-suspected need for concerted, early intervention to promote facilities management as a career of choice and its technical education route of entry. BIFM[4]has recently partnered with the Department for Work and Pensions to that end and is seeking further opportunities for collaboration on this important matter to identify and encourage the next generation of facilities management professionals.”

ABM UK has already collaborated with suppliers and clients who see the value in taking action, and says it will be looking at competitors for their involvement as the initiative develops throughout 2018, the Year of The Engineer.


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