Apprentices ‘laughed at’ for career choice, say young workers

And prisons minister tells Conservative Party Conference more must be done to help ex-offenders into work

Young people are not being properly informed about apprenticeships and those who choose to explore the option are being scoffed at, young workers told a Conservative Party Conference fringe event yesterday. 

Thea Gill-Mayfield, an apprentice at e.on, recalled that when she sought advice from a school careers advisor, “when I mentioned apprenticeships, she turned round and laughed at me”. 

John Hayes, MP for South Holland and Deepings and former minister for further education, skills and lifelong learning, noted the “advice that young people routinely get often excludes the apprenticeship route”. 

Hayes added the stories the apprentices on the panel had recounted showed they were “swimming against the tide” when they opted for an apprenticeship. 

Hugh Tylor, an apprentice at consultancy giant KPMG, said that whenever he and his colleagues went into schools to talk about apprenticeship routes, he found apprenticeship offerings were often put in a small venue, while universities were showcased in a bigger hall.

However, Gill-Mayfield encouraged those interested in doing an apprenticeship to pay less attention to what others thought. “Sometimes you have to be selfish in life,” she said. “It’s your career.”

Gillian Keegan, co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on apprenticeships and MP for Chichester, added: “Apprenticeships are just a different route to the same place.”

However, Arthur Beard, an apprentice at Battersea Power Station, added: “It is hard to get away from seeing all your peers around you going to university.”

The discussion occurred less than an hour after Philip Hammond revealed changes to the apprenticeship levy to make it more flexible, along with plans to work with businesses to review the charge. 

Measures announced by the chancellor included the ability for businesses to transfer up to 25 per cent of their levy funds to employers within their supply chain and £5m extra funding for the Institute for Apprenticeships to introduce new apprenticeship standards and update old ones, so that more courses could be offered. 

During his tenure as skills minister, Hayes helped to launch the National Careers Service in April 2012, which helps people match their skills and qualifications to potential jobs. 

Meanwhile, this January, the Baker clause – named after former education secretary Lord Baker – came into effect. This requires schools to allow further education providers to advertise their services to students and make sure provisions are in place to let pupils hear about technical qualifications. 

At a separate Conservative Party Conference fringe event, the prisons minister called on employers to do more to help ex-offenders into employment.

In particular, Rory Stewart said that not using tick boxes requiring candidates to disclose if they had a criminal record would mean “at least [ex-offenders] get a chance at an interview and a chance to impress somebody”.

The MP for Penrith and the Border added more effort had to be made to match offences to what was actually being applied for. He noted that, while it would be relevant to know if somebody had been convicted of a sexual offence if they were, for example, applying to be a teacher, “it is not relevant for somebody who is a landlord to know that when an individual was 15, they shoplifted some sweets from a shop”. 

In August, the Cabinet Office closed a consultation on supporting ex-offenders into employment. More than 11m people in the UK are thought to have a criminal record.