Strengthening advice and guidance on technical pathways will allow all young people to make the best decision for their future

Monday 8 August 2022, UCAS advice

by Holly Brown

Strengthening advice and guidance on technical pathways will allow all young people to make the best decision for their future

Deciding what to do after finishing your secondary education is a huge decision. Undergraduate study, apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships, Higher Technical Qualification, entering the world of work, taking a year out...students face more options than ever before.
Holly Brown

Here at UCAS, we know that this experience can be even more challenging when the pathways to access these different options aren’t always clear, and we are conscious that this is an issue facing many today. Our research into what influences the choices school leavers make found that two in five young people reported that more information and guidance would have led to them making better choices.

Information about apprenticeships needs to be provided equally to all groups of students

This same UCAS research found that, in particular, information on vocational and technical pathways is often lacking - almost one in three school leavers said they did not receive any information about apprenticeships from their school. Similarly, over half of the pupils we surveyed who were looking to apply in 2022 told us that they were interested in apprenticeships, but many found it hard to get the information they need about them. We’ve also noted some discrepancies between how apprenticeships were presented to different groups of students. Research for our insight report “Where Next? Who doesn’t plan to start a full-time undergraduate degree in autumn?” found that 58% of White respondents reported having received information about apprenticeships, compared to only 45% of those from an ethnic minority group. Our 2022 pre-applicant survey revealed that 35% of male applicants reported that they had been given information about doing apprenticeships and encouraged to consider all their options, in comparison to 27% of female applicants.

We therefore welcome the Department of Education’s new proposals to strengthen the statutory requirement for schools to provide opportunities for providers of technical education and apprenticeships to talk to pupils in years 8-13, to make sure students have a full understanding of their education and training options.

Technical and academic pathways should be presented with parity

So, what do we think is important when making sure that students have all the information to need to make an informed decision about their future?

We recognise that technical pathways and academic pathways need to be presented in a single easily accessible place, side-by-side, so that young people can see the full range of options available to them. We know that this is particularly significant in making sure that students from all backgrounds have access to the best opportunities for them. UCAS research has found that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to consider their options for higher education later than their advantaged peers.

UCAS can play a vital role in supporting schools to meet their obligations, and to ensure that school leavers receive guidance on all the options available to them. UCAS has made a commitment to ensuring parity between the different routes to guarantee that students from all backgrounds receive the guidance they need to make aspirational and informed choices. We have developed the UCAS Hub, our personalised information and advice dashboard where students can view all their options in one location, the Careers Quiz, where students can find the right job for them and see all the routes that lead there, and Career Finder, which displays potential apprenticeship opportunities from employers. In addition to this, our ‘Discover Your Future’ events programme provides young people with direct access to representatives from higher and further education, apprenticeships providers, and employers. It is our ambition to strengthen our offer in the future by making sure that all employers list apprenticeship vacancies through UCAS, making us truly a ‘one stop shop’ for students' future next steps.

Growing the knowledge base of key influences – teachers, advisers, parents and guardians

We also know that young people making choices about their future does not happen in isolation, and that those that have a say in this important process need to be clued up too. Parents and guardians need tailored support to understand different post-secondary routes, with almost one in three parents or guardians unaware that you can apply for a degree apprenticeship alongside an application for university. We have found that young people also need help starting the conversation around vocational and technical pathways, with almost half of students reporting that they had not discussed doing an apprenticeship with their parents and guardians.

With these gaps in mind, UCAS provides a well-rounded support package for those working with young people to think about that crucial next stage. Alongside specifically tailored content for parents and guardians, our links with over 4,000 teachers and career advisers across the UK mean that we can deliver up-to-date guidance on all pathways, including apprenticeships and other forms of technical education.

Across the UK, the different routes that young people can take after their secondary education are proliferating. This is an exciting development, and UCAS is committed to working alongside the Government, students, employers and apprenticeship providers to empower people to discover the next step on their education journey. Through providing accessible and inspirational careers information, advice, and guidance across all pathways, including apprenticeships, technical education, lifelong learning, and flexible/part-time options, we are dedicated to working alongside schools to support individuals in making the right decisions for them.