Schools are being accused of “academic snobbery” by the region’s business community after a survey revealed a failure by teachers to provide careers advice to apprentices.
The survey carried out by the Industry Apprentice Council (IAC) reveals a lack of support for school pupils interested in apprenticeships or any pathway other than higher education.
Less than 9% of the almost 600 apprentices interviewed said they found out about their apprenticeship through either their teacher or careers adviser.
The numbers drop to around 6% for those who found out about apprenticeships via either careers fairs or the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS).
Instead, more than 50% said their own initiative was the key to learning about apprenticeships, with more than 35% using online research and 24% through a family member. Just over 13% said a suggestion from their parents was the catalyst, while 15% said a friend. Ann Watson, chief operating officer of Semta, which represents 128,000 companies in the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector, said: “Time and again, when talking to bright, talented youngsters, I hear tales of academic snobbery – career advisers actively obstructing them from taking a vocational qualification and a career in industry.
“Many are being driven into higher education so schools can simply tick a box to say a pupil has gone to university – but it shouldn’t be about the school. It is about the young people and ensuring we have a highly skilled workforce in engineering and manufacturing now and in the longer term.
“Of course industry needs the best graduates – far too many of those taking STEM subjects are lost to other sectors of the economy – but we cannot allow the poor advice to suppress the ambitions of our young people who can’t or don’t want to go to university.
“We need a huge shift in emphasis to redress the balance and build a proper skills pipeline – where young people are inspired to follow a career path without incurring massive debt.
“Youth unemployment is high yet companies report vacancies as difficult to fill – if ever there was an opportunity to bring together education and industry, to ensure we create a positive environment for learning while earning, it is now.”
Nearly 40% of those that responded to the IAC survey said the careers advice they received in school or college was either poor or very poor, with a further 7% claiming they did not receive any advice or guidance at all.
Only 23% rated their school or college’s careers information, advice and guidance as good or very good.
Rebecca Earnshaw, director at Schools NorthEast, said that schools needed to improve their advice around apprenticeships.
“Teachers and careers advisers have built up a lot of experience around advising students to take the pathway to university,” she said. “But schools need to support young people going through other routes and to make the process more accessible.
“It’s a relatively new push by central Government to drill up the number of apprenticeships in the country, but it takes time for that to filter down through the schools.”