Changing attitudes about Apprenticeships is more about the ‘high road’ than the ‘high hand’

Continuing our regular series of blogs, here Paddy Patterson of Maverish Ltd and founder of Oxfordshire Apprenticeships examines attitudes towards Apprenticeships.

So legislation is going to be introduced to challenge and overcome ‘outdated snobbery’ in state schools towards Apprenticeships. In fact, some headlines stated that the practice of not promoting Apprenticeships would be ‘outlawed’. ‘Outlawed’? Who by? An Apprenticeship Sheriff?

It’s all a bit high-handed, that’s my feeling on it.  I’m not an apologist for bad practice or failure of some schools to deliver little or no careers advice. I just think it’s better to have an army of volunteers than one of conscripts, and I don’t think openly accusing schools – state schools in particular – of ‘outdated snobbery’ is the best road to progress on this front. Schools have plenty on their plates and I think the tone should be one of co-operation, not coercion.

Thinking that a law or regulation will do the job, isn’t really showing understanding of the issue. After all, there have always been things that are ‘supposed’ to happen in schools, and a fairly robust way of inspecting and judging on the effectiveness of those things. Maybe we need to review that first?

We’ve all heard it said that “schools just want to keep students on in sixth form, otherwise they lose the money”. It gets said a lot, but I don’t share that view. Yes, schools want to maximise their learner numbers, but equally, they usually recognise that having students who don’t complete or achieve is detrimental to them financially too. In my experience it is usually the case that schools just don’t really know where to start when it comes to promoting Apprenticeships. 

When we set up Oxfordshire Apprenticeships back in 2012, we had to start from scratch and at the time of writing, OA is working positively with nearly 40 schools across Oxfordshire (yes, including Academies and the independent sector). No law was necessary, no Sheriff’s badge needed to be pinned on.

High road, not path of least resistance

This happened through building relationships, based on mutual interest and understanding. It takes time but in most cases, willing ears were found, schools were happy to listen, and were grateful for support. A quick session for a small group leads to a return visit, which leads to a talk at an assembly, which leads to bespoke workshops with local training providers being brought in, and so on. But it’s not a quick fix and there are hurdles along the way and there are schools that are still to be worked with.

We also have a number of fine examples of schools working together on Apprenticeships in Oxfordshire and again, that hasn’t happened because of some high-handed headlines or legislation. It happened because they wanted to do it and because they were offered some support, not criticised and accused of ‘snobbery’. Doing that, I think, will simply result in some schools doing the bare minimum to meet whatever ‘duty’ gets introduced. And that will hardly move us forward, will it?

Won’t somebody think of the parents?

I recently worked on a Year 10 careers survey, to which over 1500 students responded. Interestingly, more people said they would go to parents to talk about careers than teachers or careers advisers.  So why are we so quick to lay the accusation of ‘snobbery’ on Apprenticeships solely at the feet of schools? For example, I’ve met so many parents who are so positive about Apprenticeships….for children other than their own, of course. Which is back to perception again. We need to do more on that front.

And it’s back to Making Sense of Apprenticeships again….

And even if schools are told to let colleges and providers come in and talk to students, what use will that be if there’s not also someone there to help students understand what it all means, and how to compare and contrast options? Yes, I’m talking about Careers Advisers….impartial and independent Careers Advisers. I’d far sooner time and resource was being put into mandating some standards on that front. That would do more, in my opinion, that forcing schools to host bun-fights for student choices.

What do you think? Have you experienced ‘snobbery’ in schools towards Apprenticeships? Do you think legislation is necessary on that front? Get in touch, we'd love to hear from you!

Tel: 01865 323477, Email: info@oxfordshireapprenticeships.co.uk, Twitter: @OxonApprentice, Facebook: /OxfordshireApprenticeships.