An apprentice in a workshop

Most graduates would opt for apprenticeship over degree

More than half of graduates (52%) say they would have considered doing an apprenticeship instead of a degree, according to a new report from the CIPD, yet official figures show a 36% decrease in young people under the age of 19 starting apprenticeships in 2020/21 compared with 2018/19. This continues a long-term trend for a smaller proportion of apprenticeship starts going to young people. 
While the pandemic and much-publicised issues with the Apprenticeship Levy are key reasons for the decline in apprenticeship starts, the CIPD’s latest report argues that the lack of advice on apprenticeships in schools is a contributing factor. 
The CIPD’s report, titled Youth employment in the UK in 2021, explores the extent to which young people understand and are prepared for the world of work – and their career satisfaction to date. Over 2,000 young people aged 18 to 30 were surveyed by YouGov as part of the research. 
It found that just 1% of all young people surveyed received help and support to apply for an apprenticeship during their time at school. In comparison, 59% received support from their school on their educational and academic options such as applying for university or college. The benefits of apprenticeships are clear – well-trained, highly skilled staff add value to all organisations, both directly and through their ability to coach, mentor and train other team members.
In response to the findings, the CIPD is calling for careers advice in schools to give equal focus to vocational and academic routes into employment. The CIPD’s report also found that a mismatch between skills supply and demand which means that graduates often end up in jobs that don’t require a degree to do the role. 
Key findings include: 

  • 66% of graduates feel the educational qualifications they hold were necessary to get their current job, but just 41% said they were necessary to do their job effectively. 
  • Over a quarter of 18–30-year-olds (29%) think that they are overqualified for their current role, rising to a third (33%) of those educated to degree level and above. 
  • A third (32%) of those qualified to degree-level or above say their career has failed to meet their expectations.
  • Fewer than one in three young people (29%) said they had received careers advice at either school or college, with most help centred on educational/academic options.  
  • Over half (52%) of graduates would have been open to an apprenticeship if it had been available in their subject, rising to 66% among less advantaged young people. This highlights the appeal of ‘earn as you learn’ options, particularly given that the average student debt after university now stands at £45,000. 


Lizzie Crowley, Senior Skills Adviser at the CIPD, said:  

 “While half of graduates say they would have been open to doing an apprenticeship, the number of young people who are actually starting them continues to fall sharply.  We need to do a better job of preparing young people for the world of work, so they can make an informed decision about what route is going to give them the best chance of having a long and fulfilling career. It’s crucial that young people receive effective careers advice at school so they are aware of the different career choices and routes open to them that meet their interests, strengths and aptitudes, as well as the needs of employers. 
“This is not just important for individuals, it’s key to our long-term productivity and competitiveness as recent skill and labour shortages have demonstrated. However, it’s not down to one stakeholder to achieve this: educators, policy makers and businesses all need to work together to help young people develop the skills they and employers need.”