Apprenticeships are a great way for young people to enter the world of work and kick-start their future careers. However, the current apprenticeship system is not working for school-leavers.

A new report by The Edge Foundation finds that nearly 50% of apprenticeships are going to those over the age of 25, and 66% to existing employees.

We need to address this problem or we run the risk of young people, especially those from lower-income backgrounds or for whom an academic degree is not the right pathway, not having the opportunity or skills to succeed in the world of work.

Following my paid internship at PD Ports I was offered a Civil Engineering Degree Apprenticeship. I’d encourage all other students to consider what else is out there – think about opportunities like apprenticeships as they’re invaluable for real-world experience.

Emily Clarke, Degree Apprentice at PD Ports, formerly at Stockton Riverside College

We’re calling on the Government to fix the apprenticeship system and give young people more workplace experiences and better careers support, which will help increase uptake, boost social mobility, and prevent a future skills shortage. How?

Unlock the levy

With 92% of paid funds – equivalent to £1.65bn –unused by eligible employers, and 14% of employers dissatisfied with it, it is clear that the apprenticeship levy is not working.

Unlocking this failing levy and giving employers the opportunity to spend a small proportion on pre-employment opportunities including paid internships will help young people, who might otherwise have not considered an apprenticeship, gain the skills, confidence and experience to support their first steps into the labour market.

By ring-fencing these internships for those from lower-income backgrounds, we can also boost social mobility as nearly 75% of young people showed signs of social mobility after completing an internship.

Offsetting the levy against paid internships will also give employers the opportunity to build strong links with future talent and become aware of students’ potential prior to offering them a full apprenticeship:

  • 75% of employers said, given the opportunity, they would hire their paid Career Ready intern
  • 82% of young people said they would consider working for their employer following their internship of 140 hours.
  • There has been a 17% increase in the number of young people choosing to do an apprenticeship following a paid internship, with many choosing to stay with the same employer or in the same sector.

​Having the ability to use the Apprenticeship Levy to give young people paid internships would have a significant impact. These interventions help young people succeed in the world of work and – as an employer – we are able to build a future talent pipeline. By fixing the Apprenticeship Levy, we will be able to grow our engagement with young people, provide them with more high-quality workplace experiences and help them succeed in the world of work.


Put careers in the curriculum

If we want to make apprenticeships work for young people and boost uptake we need to improve careers promotion – apprenticeships in particular – in schools and colleges. 

Young people cannot be what they cannot see, so we need to promote apprenticeships as a desirable career pathway, remove bias towards academic pathways, and ensure young people have up-to-date, high-quality career support which is embedded in the curriculum.  

Young people and employers both describe career education as biased towards academic routes and failing to prepare them for the world of work, with 36% of employers saying that schools and colleges are the main barriers preventing school leavers from going onto apprenticeships. And only 36% of 17-18 year olds have heard of the National Apprenticeship Service, compared to the 72% who had heard of UCAS.

Our whole-school Careers in the Curriculum and Tutorials activities embed impartial careers support and guidance into the curriculum and boost awareness of the different pathways and opportunities available to young people. By adopting this model as the standard in careers support we can ensure that young people are better informed about the world of work, increase apprenticeship uptake and boost social mobility.

By better promoting apprenticeships in schools and making the system easier for smaller businesses, we can boost apprenticeship uptake among young people and ensure that they have the skills, experience and opportunity to succeed in the logistics sector.

British International Freight Association