On post-GCSEs, hard choices and the potential of apprenticeships

Apprenticeships and Study Programmes are crucial for cultivating social mobility and expanding opportunity for young people
23 August 2017

GCSE results day is again upon us and, naturally, students and parents will be wondering what the results mean for the future.

With changes to the grading system for GCSE maths and English, the possibility of tuition fees rising yet further and the prospect of having to move or travel for the next stage of their education, this year’s cohort of 16-year-olds may understandably feel confused or confounded by the choices being thrust upon them.

It is important for them to note however that although decisions about their next steps are significant, they do have a variety of choices available and can succeed no matter what path they choose to go down, including if that path is away from the traditional academic route.

Over the past 10 years, the scope, size and standard of apprenticeship and vocational provision has expanded considerably. It used to be that such further education was limited only to certain sectors or types of jobs, but this is no longer the case.

There are now approximately 1,500 different apprenticeship roles available across 280 sectors, including in fields such as marketing, law and accountancy, and in many cases, apprenticeship learners can expect to gain higher lifetime earnings than those who go to university.

The Sutton Trust, in their Levels of Success: The Potential of UK Apprenticeships report note for instance that level 5 apprentices will earn on average £50,000 more in their lifetime than someone with an undergraduate degree from a non-Russell Group university, all without the considerable debt that comes with going to university.

Apprenticeships also offer learners the opportunity to earn while they learn, and it is even now possible to gain a degree through apprentice training.

Apprenticeships also offer learners the opportunity to earn while they learn, and it is even now possible to gain a degree through apprentice training.

Apprenticeships, however, continue to be seen as a second-best option for school leavers when compared to university. In 2015/16, there were only around 900,000 students undertaking an apprenticeship, compared with nearly 1,800,000 undergraduates. Given the immense benefits of taking an apprenticeship, these numbers seemingly don’t make sense.

A possible explanation may be that Further Education training providers have not been given the right of access to school students and therefore young people have often lacked crucial information. The so called ‘baker-clause’, an amendment to the government’s Technical and Further Education Bill that will take effect from January 2018 however now forces all schools to give FE providers access to their pupils, and hopefully, therefore, stops schools preventing students hearing about the benefits of alternative routes.

As a result of the baker clause, we at Central YMCA are hopefully that many young people will now see the immense benefits of enrolling on a study programme or taking an apprenticeship.

Further education can provide a route through which more young people can gain the skills and subsequent employment they need to live happier, healthier and more fulfilled lives, and it would be hugely positive if more young people are able to see their potential.

A subsidiary of Central YMCA, YMCA Training, have been providing further education opportunities since their establishment in the midst of the deep recession and mass unemployment of the late 1970s, and have grown into a major national training provider delivering programmes to almost 10,000 learners each year.

Currently, YMCA Training is offering study programmes, apprenticeships and traineeships in fields as diverse as business administration, retail, fitness, health and social care and motor vehicle maintenance.

Further education has the capacity to transform the lives of young people and the society in which we live, and YMCA Training is honoured to be a part of that. 

If you would like to see the apprenticeships that YMCA Training is currently recruiting for, please see the current vacancies page

Central YMCA also works with many employers across the UK helping them find apprentices that fit their business needs. Email Chloe Reader to see how we can help your organisation.