A leading North East engineer has hit out at the attitude which sees vocational study as a ‘second best’ route to a career after a degree.
Nick Batey, who is technical director at Durham-based Altec Engineering, has criticised the lack of importance associated to apprenticeships by some schools.
At a parents’ evening for his 12-year-old son, Mr Batey said he listened to his son’s teacher explain that if he didn’t get good enough grades to go to university he would ‘have to go down the vocational route’ instead.
Mr Batey said he does not blame the school, which he has requested remains anonymous, but rather an outdated attitude concerning the industry as a whole.
“I personally am very disappointed at the lack of importance associated to apprenticeships by some schools,” he said.
“When my son asked his teacher what would happen if he didn’t get good grades, he was told that he would have to go down the vocational route, such as an apprenticeship.
“This, sadly, is an attitude adopted by many education providers, parents and subsequently their children.
“There’s a common misconception that engineering and manufacturing is dirty work and a dead-end career. This couldn’t be any further from the truth.
“A lot of work is done on computers and there’s ample opportunity for promotion within a business.
“An apprenticeship is an opportunity for any school leaver who wants to earn as they learn with a greater chance of continued employment afterwards.
“I myself started the business as an apprentice toolmaker and have been given the opportunity to work my way up to director level.”
Altec has two new engineering apprentices starting in September, with another two to be identified for September start.
That will bring the firm’s total number of apprentices to 13 in a company which currently employs 60 people.
Apprenticeships still have a reputation as a poor relation to a university degree, with only 46% of British parents saying they would encourage their children to take up vocational training.
The view was reinforced by a recent study which also found that 14% of parents of children aged 11 to 18 still maintain that apprenticeships are a second best route to a career after a degree.
The research on behalf of BAE Systems and the Royal Academy of Engineering illustrated that old prejudices towards apprentice schemes, particularly amongst higher earning households, still remain.
Despite the fears over affordability, combined with concerns over the instability of the jobs market, 78% of school leavers from the North East still see a degree as important for career development.