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Degree Apprenticeships: Are we saying everybody has to be a graduate?

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In terms of an image overhaul, it is certainly fair to say that Apprenticeships have had the Gok Wan treatment recently. Not a day goes by when there isn’t a new sound bite around Apprenticeships, culminating on Monday with David Cameron announcing that he wanted young people to have only two options on leaving school: ‘University or an Apprenticeship’.

Excellent headline, and one that certainly got my LinkedIn feed into a frenzy. However, further into the speech he discusses that in his view Apprenticeships need to be more flexible and incorporate a degree. So was he actually saying his vision is for every young person, there is only one option, and that is to get a Degree?

Degree Apprenticeships are an exciting prospect. The chance for employers to work with reputable universities to design school leaver programmes that are flexible, responsive to their needs and give young people the opportunity to work, earn and gain a degree is certainly a step in the right direction and will help in the struggle to get schools to talk about the ‘A’ word.

But are we risking creating a two-tier system in the Apprenticeship space? Are we saying to those young people, who are not the most academically able that their qualification, maybe at a L2 or L3 is not worth as much as others who have done an Apprenticeship with a degree attached? So much work has been done over the last few years to promote Apprenticeships as a viable alternative to University, is the messaging now becoming mixed yet again? Apprenticeships should be about learning the knowledge, skills and behaviours necessary to do well in a job role, taking professional qualifications such as AAT or ICAEW where appropriate. Once you’ve mastered this, is this not enough?

Degree Apprenticeships are a welcome addition to the Apprenticeship space especially for the right scheme with the right university partner. However we feel that it is very important that in all the hype, we don’t marginalise those young people who need Apprenticeships at lower levels for whom a Degree, dare we say it, is actually not necessary.

Cassandra MacDonald is Head of Professional Services Apprenticeships at Kaplan.

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