How much do you know about apprenticeships in 2019? What teachers said

Are you getting more questions from students about apprenticeships? The teachers we've spoken to said they definitely are – but do they feel equipped to answer them?

But, if our recent survey results are anything to go by, you probably already know this. In fact, the good news is that the teachers we spoke to rated their apprenticeship knowledge pretty highly!

You might be wondering how much you ought to know about this increasingly popular career pathway, and how best to share information with your students.

Which? University interviewed 90 teachers from around the UK in December 2018 about their knowledge of apprenticeships and how this is disseminated in their schools.


How much do teachers really know about apprenticeships?

The teachers we asked were confident about their apprenticeship knowledge, with 82% rating it as good or very good. A mere 7% considered their knowledge poor or very poor, and 11% positioned themselves somewhere in between.

Are teachers equipped to talk to students about apprenticeships?

Since the knowledge of apprenticeships is high among teachers, it’s no surprise that 79% agree or strongly agree that they feel equipped to provide good information and support to students about them.


This is good news, as nearly two thirds of the 16 to 24-year-olds we spoke with in 2018 felt they didn't know enough about apprenticeships.

Many teachers point to the wealth of information now available on apprenticeships and do their homework, whether it’s online or through organisations. Among our full apprenticeships advice section, we have a five-minute guide on what students need to know about applying.

A teacher from London uses a number of sources to stay up-to-date:

I use websites, vacancies, email updates, and keep informed

 Another from the East of England says that swotting up is something that they allocate time for:

I spend time expanding my apprenticeship knowledge

Do schools prioritise university and apprenticeships equally?

University and apprenticeships both offer routes to gaining a degree. But our survey found that not all schools prioritise apprenticeships equally alongside university as a HE path for students. While some 60% of teachers agreed (slightly or strongly) that the two options are given the same weighting, a third (34%) either disagreed (slightly or strongly).

Some teachers cited the growing appetite for apprenticeships, with students wanting more information about this option. Within schools prioritising apprenticeships and university equally, many teachers encourage students to consider all possible pathways available to them. After all, students can apply to both at the same time, so they're not exclusive.

The take-up is on the rise in the South West, according to one teacher:

Increasingly, students are choosing to take up apprenticeships

Over in the South East, all the opportunities are on the table:

Students are encouraged to look at all options

However, prioritisation depends on the region. Some teachers say the take-up is higher than average, and others point to a lack of opportunities or training providers in the area.

In the North East and Cumbria, apprenticeships are particularly popular, says one teacher:

11% go on to apprenticeships in this region – twice the national average

 But in the South West, there's an opposing story:

In Plymouth there is no training provider for Level 4 apprenticeships

Some schools prioritise the two options fairly equally even when the majority of their students follow the traditional university route, which suggests that the current take-up shouldn’t become a barrier for presenting students with all the options.

In a West Midlands school, apprenticeships are promoted even if this route isn't the most popular yet:

Grammar school: most want university. We promote apprenticeships

A teacher from the North East and Cumbria area notes the disparity between what is promoted and what is best for the student: 

There is still too much emphasis on university even if not appropriate

But there are clearly still some myths to be busted. University is still considered the ‘better’ choice, and as a result students might feel more supported with this decision. Indeed, some teachers said their schools’ expertise remains with this route.

A teacher in the East of England believes:

Students feel more support is given to uni applications

This might be due to existing expertise, as a teacher from the North West notes:

Our in-house expertise is with UCAS and university applications

Many teachers say it is actually the careers department driving better impartiality, while other staff can retain biases. So, even if the information is there, existing prejudices may be the sticking point.

Staff can have an agenda, a teacher from London says:

I am impartial, but many teachers advise in a pro-uni way

 While at a school in the West Midlands:

The careers department is addressing the imbalance

And it’s not just staff. All the teachers who mentioned parents when elaborating note their bias towards university.

A teacher in the South East says:

Parent/carers are very keen on the university route

 While over in Northern Ireland:

There is a gap in parents' knowledge in the value of higher level apprenticeships

Once parents learn the perks of an apprenticeship (no student debt, years of work experience and a qualification at the end) they are likely to be supportive. At least, that’s what James Gee found when completing both a higher and degree apprenticeship in IT with CapGemini.

How can teachers share information about apprenticeships with their students?

Teachers have an opportunity to empower their students with information about apprenticeships, and are more likely to be up to date than parents. Those we asked disseminate information with students in a number of innovative ways.

At a school in the South West:

We work with apprenticeship providers

While one in the South West brings back alumni:

Former students come back and talk through their experiences

Teachers also said they offer a higher apprenticeship support programme, deliver assemblies, and conduct group and one-to-one sessions on apprenticeships. Can teachers find information about apprenticeships all in one place? Many teachers said they want a centralised source of information – a 'one-stop shop’, so to speak – about apprenticeships to understand what were opportunities available.

Teachers said they use Which? University with their students, including our dedicated apprenticeship advice and resources specifically for teachers.

Knowing who offers apprenticeships would be helpful for some in Northern Ireland:

I have some knowledge but would like a database of companies