Apprenticeships 'best route to job'
Many people believe that apprenticeships could offer young people a better chance of getting a job than a degree, a poll suggests.
New research suggests there is growing recognition that following the traditional academic route of going to university is not the only way into the workplace.
More than a third of adults say they believe that a degree-level apprenticeship would be better for a young person's career prospects, while just over a fifth (21%) backed university study as the best option.
The poll was one of a series of surveys commissioned by the Sutton Trust charity and Pearson ahead of their international summit of apprenticeships and vocational education.
Around two fifths (41%) of those questioned said they think that most apprenticeships should be designed to be equivalent to A-levels.
Government data shows that two-thirds of the apprenticeships started by young people in 2012/13 were equivalent to GCSE, the trust said.
The survey also found that a fifth (20%) of the 1,729 adults polled wanted these schemes to be the same standard as a degree while almost quarter (24%) said they should be equal to GCSEs.
While the survey findings indicated there is recognition among the public of the worth of apprenticeships, separate research suggests that many parents still see the qualifications as second best.
More than half (56%) of mums and dads surveyed said that they were likely to encourage their child to study for a degree, but just 40% said the same about apprenticeships.
And while over half of 11 to 16-year-olds say they would be interested in becoming an apprentice if it was for a job they wanted to do, rather than going to university, less than a third (31%) said that their teachers had discussed apprenticeships with them.
The research also found that almost two-thirds of teachers (65%) would rarely or never advise a high-achieving student to consider an apprenticeship.
Conor Ryan, director of research at the Sutton Trust said: "There is a growing appetite for real apprenticeships among young people and the wider public. But there are still not nearly enough apprenticeships at A-level or degree standard available. It is vital that this gap is addressed.
"Our research has shown that in other European countries, particularly in Germany and Switzerland, three-year good-quality apprenticeships are a serious option for all young people. Despite some recent improvements, we still have a mountain to climb to match ambitions in England."
A report due to be handed out at the summit says that in 2012/13 there were 180,000 apprenticeship starts at GCSE level by 16 to 24-year-olds, 97,000 at A-level standard and 3,000 degree-level apprenticeships.
On average, an apprenticeship for 16 to 18-year-olds lasted 17 months, the report says, while for 19 to 24-year-olds the courses last around 14 months.
Rod Bristow, president of Pearson Core Markets, said: "We know that the best vocational systems around the world combine the academic skills of 'know-what' and 'know-why' with the more applied skills of 'know-how'.
"All jobs in the 21st century, value not just what people know, but what they can do. In the UK many vocational students are already making progress onto higher education or into great jobs, but if we are to compete with the best, we need to be more focused, more aspirational, more relevant.
Government figures published last week showed that rising numbers of school leavers are choosing to sign up for apprenticeships.
Almost 50,000 young people aged 16 and 17 have signed up for the schemes, up 15% on the same point last year.
:: One Ipsos MORI poll questioned 2,796 11 to 16-year-olds in England and Wales, while a second questioned 1,728 adults, including 455 parents, in England between June 13-17. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) questioned 1,163 primary and secondary school teachers in March as part of its Teacher Voice omnibus survey.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "I want to see university degrees and apprenticeships on an equal footing. This is increasingly becoming the norm for young people, with the number of school leavers who are taking up an apprenticeship increasing by 15% in just one year.
"Since 2010, the Government has invested over £5 billion to support more than 1.8 million apprentices begin their new careers. These figures demonstrate that apprenticeship reforms are delivering for young people and helping businesses to get the skills they need to grow."
The latest research comes as Science Minister David Willetts is due to announce that £52 million is to be invested in "new and emerging science talent", a move that will create over 7,800 education and skills opportunities - including apprenticeships, traineeships and degrees, over two years.
Mr Willetts said: " The science-based industries are critical to our future prosperity - and higher skills are the key driver of their competitiveness. Our investment will help the industry to take the lead investing in the skills they need."