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School leavers view apprenticeships as largely for entering blue-collar professions

Hattie / 24th Jan, 2018 / News

Students who are leaving secondary education during 2018 believe that apprenticeships are only useful for beginning blue-collar careers, and not the best route for careers such as finance or law, according to a new survey published last week by AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians).

AAT spoke with over 1,000 17-18 year olds who intend to leave school after completing their A-levels in the summer, finding that in spite of the Government’s commitment to a target of three million apprenticeship starts by 2020, most still see a university degree as the best way to access white-collar careers.

Two thirds of school leavers (67%) thought a degree was best to access a career in finance, with only 12 per cent saying an apprenticeship was the best way. Among the professions surveyed, only law (81%) was more favoured by school leavers then finance as the career best accessed by a university degree. Just 8 per cent believed an apprenticeship was the best route to enter law.

“I think it’s crazy that more people don’t think about taking an apprenticeship when wanting to go into law. When I started, I was a paralegal, 19 and ambitious. I had to work really hard to prove my worth against grads, but thank goodness they gave me a chance as I am now a fully qualified solicitor. I should also point out that I’ve qualified well ahead of my graduate peers.” says Zoe Ledsham, 27. Zoe, originally from Liverpool, is now working at a top legal firm in London.

“For me, going through the CILEX (Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) route made a lot of sense. I’m ambitious and hardworking but university was not going to further my career. I like to learn by doing and so when the opportunity arose to work within a team, at a real company, gaining real experience and qualifications, versus university, it was a no brainer.”

The preference towards a university degree – not just for law and finance but also accessing the media and information/communication professions, could in part be due to school leavers’ knowledge about the career options available to them. Twice as many school leavers (72%) told AAT they were aware of UCAS compared to the National Apprenticeship Service (36%), while only half (50%) had heard of the information provided by the National Careers Service.

The ‘Baker clause’, which came into effect on Tuesday 2 January, aims to help tackle this issue, requiring schools to allow colleges, training providers and university technical colleges access to speak to students about options other than university.


“For me, going through the CILEX (Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) route made a lot of sense. I’m ambitious and hardworking but university was not going to further my career. I like to learn by doing and so when the opportunity arose to work within a team, at a real company, gaining real experience and qualifications, versus university, it was a no brainer.”

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