How can we change opinions around apprenticeships?

DTA's Alyssa and IQ Engineers' Dezhaun had the fantastic opportunity to be interviewed by the Telegraph about their experience of being an apprentice and how as part of the Industry Apprentice Council they're working to change opinions around apprenticeships and to explode myths that that still exist. 

Read the full article on The Telegraph here - https://bit.ly/2NGIqyf

It was Alyssa's Mum who first suggested she take an apprenticeship after the school's careers advice service failed to flag this earn-while-you-learn option. Now in her second year of a Business Administration Apprenticeship working at Derwent Training Association, the 19-year-old says her confidence has skyrocketed. 

''When I first came here I was too nervous to answer the phone but, along with a a whole range of jobs including liaising with employers and keeping detailed apprentice records, I don't even think about it nowadays,'' says Alyssa.

''The people here have been very supportive and, aside from learning about my own role and the world of work, I have gained a great deal of self-assurance.''

Soon to embark on her Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship, equivalent to A-levels, Alyssa is also an active member of Semta's Industry Apprentice Council (IAC), which is made up largely of current apprentices from the UK's advanced manufacturing and engineering sector, and is the country's leading voice for vocational learners. 

''There are a number of misconceptions about apprenticeships generally and they include the belief that only students with poor grades opt to do them'' she says, ''even though the majority of schemes require 5 C/4 grades or above at GCSE.''

''It may be true that, in the old days, a small number of apprentices found they were making tea all day rather than getting proper training, but thankfully today's schemes are highly structured.''

It seems the majority of today's apprentices agree. In last year's annual IAC survey, 98% of respondents said they were happy they chose an apprenticeship. 

There's no doubt, though, that schools need to do more to encourage school leavers into apprenticeships. Only 22% of survey respondents said they received good careers advice at school - an even smaller figure than a year previously. 

Boosting Awareness

That's something the IAC is keen to change. As a young woman in a male-dominated industry, Alyssa, who says she may do a degree later on, is also keen to explode the myth that STEM careers are only for boys. 

''According to government stats, only 8% of engineering apprenticeship starters last year were female'' she says ''and I believe that comes down to a lack of awareness. I'm really keen to explore how school careers advice services can be brought up to speed with the modern world.''

For Dezhaun, 17, a first-year mechanical engineering apprentice at IQ Engineers in York who left school last summer, academic grades were never an issue. 

''I did well at school, but didn't want to spend any longer in the classroom, despite getting an awful lot of careers advice focusing on the importance of higher education,'' he says. ''It was my Dad who thought that an engineering apprenticeship would allow me to use my practical skills, particularly in an industry where I could go as far as I liked, and he was absolutely right.''

Dezhaun too feels passionately about the image of STEM. ''I find it strange that people think engineering is a dirty job because as someone who is based in a workshop, that really isn't the case, particularly now that everything is so health and safety orientated.''

''By becoming a member of the IAC, I am hoping tht I can give other young people a far more positive and realistic idea of what being an apprentice is all about in 2018.''

Attracted by both the quality of his training and by his wage packe, two of Dezhaun's old school friends have now taken up apprenticeships too: one in engineering, another in joinery. 

''I may study for a degree later on too,'' he says, ''but for now I'm enjoying learning an interesting trade and am looking forward to progressing further.''

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