3 key takeaways: 16-19 year olds and the future of apprenticeships
This week saw the launch of the #FutureOfApprenticeships – our exciting news series of live shows produced in partnership with our friends at FE News. Over the next eight weeks we’ll be exploring all things apprenticeships, as a range of experts and guest speakers join us to delve into topics such as apprenticeships for 16-19 year olds, working with SMEs, SEND learners, the cost of living crisis, and more.
Our first show, titled “Are apprenticeships still working for 16-19 year olds?”, was an insightful start to the series. It featured a brilliant panel of speakers, including:
- Gavin O’Meara, Founder and CEO of FE News
- Suzanne Slater, Director of Operations for Apprenticeships at NCFE
- John-Joe Tams, Accreditation Apprentice at NCFE
- Lucy Hunte, National Programme Manager – Apprenticeships at NHS.
Here, we recap three of the key takeaways that we gained from the discussion.
1. There are several reasons for the decrease in entry level apprenticeship starts for 16-19s
To kick-start the episode, Gavin highlighted recent research which revealed that entry-level apprenticeship starts in England have fallen by 72% since 2014. Further to this, more than half of all apprenticeships are for people that are 25+. We therefore asked, what’s causing these patterns?
"Firstly, I think we need to consider the significant change we’ve seen in how apprenticeships are funded, especially since the introduction of the levy in 2017,” says Suzanne Slater. As a result of this, employers are now in the driving seat, and data shows us that there’s been an increase in the number of higher level of apprenticeships, as well as the use of apprenticeship funding to upskill existing staff or recruit more experienced candidates. These are, of course, positive actions in themselves – but overall, they contribute to the sustained rising average age of an apprentice.
The issue of securing a wage – one only being deepened by the current cost of living crisis – was another factor. Current apprentice John-Joe spoke about how his peers often have to make the decision between ‘jobs for survival vs jobs for progress’. The cost of living and apprenticeships is definitely a deeper discussion that is needed, and we'll be dedicating a full episode to this topic later in this series.
2. We must do more when it comes to education around apprenticeships
In terms of a further barrier, both Lucy and John-Joe also spoke about their experience of a lack of impartial guidance regarding apprenticeships in schools – Lucy through research that she’s carried out (as well as being a mum to a 15-year-old!), and John-Joe through first-hand experience during school.
After attending a residential trip and spending three days at a university, John-Joe was sure that university wasn’t the right path for him – however, he still felt that he lacked a deep understanding of apprenticeships. He explained: “You can achieve massive amounts over the course of an apprenticeship that I really wasn’t aware of at all until I’d already started this apprenticeship.
“I was sold enough to sign up to an apprenticeship knowing so little – so if I’d known everything that I do now about apprenticeships, I would have massively encouraged anybody to go down that route!”
Lucy agreed, sharing research that highlighted how parents could also be a barrier to entry, due to a lack of understanding when it comes to apprenticeships, their structure and their many benefits. It’s clear that there’s plenty of progress to be made when it comes to education and apprenticeships.
3. Apprenticeships can be life-changing – quite literally!
We were thrilled to be joined by someone with first-hand experience, as NCFE’s own Accreditation Apprentice, John-Joe Tams, joined the episode to share his journey so far.
When asked if choosing an apprenticeship has been a good path for him, John-Joe said: “I think the apprenticeship is the best thing I ever did, because it’s given me so many professional skills and the opportunity to continue learning academically, but at the same time, it’s also given me a lot of skills in my personal life.”
John-Joe explained how he's maximising his apprenticeship through making relationships with colleagues across all levels at NCFE, receiving mentorship and guidance and shaping into a young professional along the way. He also shared how when it comes to personal skills (also known as essential skills), his apprenticeship has helped him to grow in confidence and learn independence, through practices such as earning his own money.
To hear more directly from John-Joe and listen to our panel explore other interesting questions, including whether we need an increase in Level 2 apprenticeships, you can watch the full episode below:
Be sure to join us for our second episode, “#FutureOfApprenticeships: Unlocking SMEs and helping them to thrive”, live at 10am next Thursday 13 October live on the FE News website or YouTube channel. You can also join in the discussion using #FutureOfApprenticeships on social media.