Students from poorer backgrounds not taking up apprenticeship opportunities

Education charity, Teach First, has released initial findings from their joint report with PA Consulting Group regarding young people from disadvantaged backgrounds accessing apprenticeships.  The report, due to be published in September, has highlighted that poorer people are less likely to explore apprenticeship opportunities than their wealthy counterparts.

The research compared students who are eligible for free school meals against those who are not, and found that in every region other than Inner London, Outer London and the South East, it was wealthier students who were more likely to become an apprentice.  There have been a number of different reasons given for this, including a lack of information and awareness of the benefits of becoming an apprentice, as well as financial barriers.  Apprentices do not receive the same financial support as those in full time education or training, who can access the £1,200 from the Department for Education’s 16 to 19 Bursary for transport, food and equipment.  Parents are also not eligible to claim child benefit for 16 to 18 year old apprentices, even though parents of children in this age group who are in full-time education or vocational training can do so.

The perception of a low apprenticeship wage is also a challenge to overcome.  The National Minimum Wage for an apprentice is £3.30 per hour, however the average wage for apprentices is in fact £6 per hour.  The new Skills Minister, Robert Halfon has raised the idea recently that a National Living Wage could be possible for apprentices.

In light of these perceived financial restraints, Teach First have called in their report for the Low Pay Commission to conduct their own research to ascertain whether these are reasons why poorer people may not be taking up apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are an excellent way for young people to take the first step in their career, and so it’s important that we move away from the perception that they are a second rate option and that learners won’t be as successful as an apprentice over university or college.  There are so many more options for apprentices with higher and degree apprenticeships available that apprentices now have the opportunity to earn just as much, or even higher, than those who earn a degree through university.  It’s also been shown recently that employers are more likely to recruit someone who has completed an apprenticeship over someone who has undergone three years of study.

As well as recommendations regarding the financial elements, Teach First are also calling for a Ucas-style “one stop shop” apprenticeship application system to make the process as easy as possible for all potential apprentices, no matter their background.

Aspire Training Team works with young people and employers across the South to find places for childcare apprentices, business administration apprentices and health & social care apprentices, as well as courses in team leading and management.  For more information you can contact the team on 01202 551553 or email


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