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Informing parents is the key to unlocking the next generation of apprentices

  • 17 February 2021
  • By Katie Bell

This blog was kindly contributed by Dr Katie Bell, Chief Marketing Officer, UCAS. You can find Katie on Twitter @DrKatieBell.

For many parents, an apprenticeship musters up images of overalls and oily hands, but in the modern day that could not be further from the truth. From nursing and policing through to engineering, digital marketing, or accountancy almost every pathway a young person could wish to follow has a higher or degree apprenticeship route. With the dust settling on another National Apprenticeship Week (February 8 to 12), now is the time to change the rhetoric we use with the influencers of young people and reinforce higher apprenticeships as a great option.

Parents and carers are significant influencers on young people’s destinations, both consciously and unconsciously. It is a parent’s views, experiences and own career that shape the views, experiences and pathways of their children. UCAS’s latest research shows that the more informed a parent is about apprenticeships, the more likely a young person is to be considering them. Herein lies a barrier we need to unlock.

Last month, we asked 1,200 parents and carers who are currently helping their son or daughter choose their next steps about how the process was going. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found unwavering support for their child, with 75% saying they would support whichever option they wanted to pursue. Nearly 70% said their child was currently intending to study a university degree, compared to only 7% who were planning on an apprenticeship. About a fifth (22%) of the children were still considering their options.

Parents’ personal experiences are hugely influential on the advice they give

Despite three-quarters vowing to support their son or daughter with whichever option they chose, it is clear a parent’s own experience has some influence on the desired pathway they seek for their children. Parents who had taken an apprenticeship themselves are twice as likely to encourage their son or daughter to follow in their footsteps rather than choose a traditional undergraduate degree. Of the parents who had been to university, 12% would advocate a university degree exclusively over considering an apprenticeship – this falls to 5% when parents had not been to university.

Parents of A-Level students are less likely to consider apprenticeships

Of those pupils who are considering an apprenticeship, there is variation based on their qualification type. Pupils who are already studying practical or vocational subjects at Level 3 are more likely to consider the apprenticeship route. A significant majority of parents (71%) whose children are studying BTECs said that they were considering the higher or degree apprenticeship route with their children, compared to 55% of A level pupils, falling to under half (47%) of Scottish Highers students.

Do parents know all the options available to young people and have a modern understanding of them?

Our survey highlights that nearly 30% of parents did not know you could study an apprenticeship at degree level and one-third of parents were unaware that you could apply for a degree apprenticeship as well as applying for a university undergraduate course. The choice of which route to choose can be made once the course or job offers are received.

There is also a notable difference in parents’ knowledge of the qualification level based on the type of school their child attends. Just six-in-ten parents of children at private schools knew a degree level qualification was available with the apprenticeships, but for parents of students at further education colleges and grammar schools, almost eight-in-ten.

Around 65% of parents of BTEC and Scottish Highers students who were not thinking about apprenticeships said they did not know where to look for information and 40% said they did not know anything about them. More than a quarter (27%) thought the career prospects did not match up to a traditional university degree. These three factors are largely equal amongst parents of A-Level students (at around 44%).

Does this understanding vary across the UK?

There appears to be a difference in that understanding across the UK. Between 70% to 80% of parents across England and Scotland were aware that students could get a degree-level qualification by completing an apprenticeship, but this knowledge is lower for Northern Ireland (60%) and Wales* (42%) although smaller sample sizes might be in play here.


From this survey it is clear that there is an opportunity for everyone involved in providing advice and guidance around the range of options available to Year 12 and 13 cohorts to help influence and provide information to their parents.

UCAS’s charitable objectives are to progress and assist in the advancement of education by providing information, advice and guidance and admissions services to facilitate progression in education. UCAS is therefore committed to raising awareness and providing information about the alternative routes available through higher levels of education, enabling learners everywhere to continue their journeys of lifelong learning and advancement.

We are building on our existing Career Finder service and supporting online apprenticeship content on the UCAS website, to be the go-to place for students and all of their advisers. They will easily be able to find out more about the higher education pathways and the potential for their futures and parents can find information specifically tailored for them, so that they may support their child along their chosen pathway, whatever that may be.

We know there is a growing demand for apprenticeships. During last week’s National Apprenticeship Week alone, over 40,000 jobs were viewed on UCAS’s Career Finder – up approximately a third on the 2020 week – resulting in 6,246 applications. Degree apprenticeships in Business, Software Development and Accountancy are among the most popular, alongside becoming a police constable through an apprenticeship. These roles are reflected in popular search terms with strong interest also shown for Law, Nursing, Engineering, Media and Marketing. These searches also mirror the most common terms used by students looking for traditional undergraduate degrees, showing the strong demand for learning the skills for these fields in multiple ways.

However, it is evident that the role of parents and carers as influencers needs to be central to any government strategy on informing and promoting apprenticeships. They require information, advice and guidance in the same way that their children do and we need to listen and understand the preconceptions that they bring with them to the family table.

Without this drive and action parental support will remain limited and relatively uniformed and countless opportunities for these young learners will be missed.

1 comment

  1. This is a good Blog.
    I have shared on our Twitter and LinkedIn.

    Can’t seem to find a link to download the Reoprt and the statistics in a general format outside of this Blog. Is there a Report format?

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