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Sun April 11 2021

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Covid prompts youngsters to think again about apprenticeships and trades

16 Mar The Covid-19 pandemic has changed many things, including young people’s aspirations.

Redrow recently took part in a BBC TV series, The Nine to Five with Stacey Dooley, giving work experience to teenagers
Redrow recently took part in a BBC TV series, The Nine to Five with Stacey Dooley, giving work experience to teenagers

According to a new survey, more than a third of 16- to 21-year-olds are less likely to choose a university education than they were before Covid-19.

At the same time, 42% of young people say they are now more likely to consider on the job learning such as an apprenticeship.

The old assumption that bright and ambitious pupils went on to university has been challenged by the rise in autodidacticism and collapse of the university experience, it seems.

House-builder Redrow runs an annual survey on attitudes toward apprenticeships and careers in construction. This year’s is particularly interesting. It reveals that more than a third (37%) of young people surveyed say that the pandemic has decreased the likelihood of them choosing university in the future.

Now in its fifth year, Redrow’s report analyses the barriers to entry-level recruitment into the construction and the house-building sector, as well as Redrow’s recommendations to overcome these. Redrow once again canvassed 2,000 parents and young people, as well as more than 100 of its apprentices, and benchmarked the findings against previous years. This year, amidst the global coronavirus pandemic, Redrow also investigated the impact coronavirus has had on plans to embark on further education.

The results reveal that 36% of young people are concerned about their job prospects since the onset of the pandemic, and routes that combine working and education have a greater appeal, with 42% of respondents more likely to pursue on the job learning such as an apprenticeship. This was felt most significantly among young adults in London where 57% of respondents reported being more likely to pursue on the job learning.

Redrow says this changing landscape makes it a good time to bring in new ways to attract young people into apprenticeships.

Careers advice in schools has suffered in the past year. With less time spent in school, the proportion of young adults who have had information on apprenticeships outlined to them via school resources dropped from 63% in 2018 to 57% in 2021, reaching a four-year low. At the same time, the percentage who say their advice was entirely not useful, or non-existent, has increased to a five-year high.

As a result, the majority of Redrow’s own apprentices found out about the roles at Redrow via friends or family (44%), up from 38% last year. In fact, the majority (67%) stated that they believe that schools do not promote apprenticeships in the same way they do other educational routes.

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Gender stereotypes are also still present when encouraging and informing young people on construction careers. Only 33% of female respondents had discussed construction careers at school compared to 46% of young males.

"Has anyone at school outlined information to you on apprenticeships; how they work and their benefits?"
"Has anyone at school outlined information to you on apprenticeships; how they work and their benefits?"

Parental influence

Lockdowns have provided a unique opportunity for many parents and older children to reconnect and evaluate priorities. With more time spent together, the influence of parents is stronger than ever, Redrow says.

However, research shows that preconceived notions about careers in construction are still held among a significant number of parents – 17% believe that a career in construction requires no qualifications beyond GCSEs (down from 24% in 2017). As a result, 11% would actively discourage their child from pursuing a career in construction.

Despite this, parents’ views of apprenticeships are more promising. The majority (69%) say that they have discussed the prospect of their child doing an apprenticeship. This has increased from 65% in 2017. Parents in the East Midlands are the most likely to have spoken with their child about undertaking an apprenticeship (78% vs a national average of 69%).

Redrow human resources director Karen Jones said: “The past 12 months have seen the nation rocked by the coronavirus pandemic, and the shockwaves are still being felt. Unemployment has reached its highest level in five years and six out of 10 employers stopped all new apprenticeships with immediate effect in April 2020. As a result, apprenticeships starts are down 18% on the year before. 

“But as success from the vaccine rollout and lockdown restrictions clear the way for a roadmap for a gradual re-opening of UK plc, businesses can now start thinking about a positive and productive future. It is vital that young people can play a vital part in ‘building back better’, and apprenticeships will be critical in tackling the skills gap and helping power the UK’s economic recovery, as well as delivering much-needed homes and infrastructure.

“Educational routes that combine learning and earning will have an even greater appeal following this long period of social distancing we’ve experienced, and a more competitive jobs market. We believe that today’s changing landscape offers a real opportunity to innovate the way that in which we attract young people into apprenticeships. To help elevate apprenticeships as an option for young people, we must first address the more negative attitudes held by some teachers and parents, while highlighting the benefits to young people nationwide.”

Redrow’s recommendations:

  1. Expand the apprenticeship levy to allow larger firms to transfer more of their levy bill, and expand what the levy funds can be used for
  2. Introduce a living wage for apprenticeships, calculated according to what employees and their families need to live, and that is reflective of the of part of the UK in which they live
  3. Make careers advice digital to help motivate and inspire students, which most of their time is spent online

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MPU
MPU

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