More teenagers should be encouraged to take work-based apprenticeships as an alternative to university, a major Government review has suggested.
The review – led by entrepreneur Doug Richard – said the previous Government’s target to push half of school leavers into university had resulted in an “unthinking collective belief” that a degree “offers an indication of greater capability which it does not, in fact, confer”.
He said that a successful overhaul of the system should be made to enable 18-year-olds to turn down “a place at Oxbridge to take up an apprenticeship if that is the right path for them”.
The study – jointly commissioned by the Department for Education and Department for Business – recommended the introduction of new standards for each industry to clearly define the goals of an apprenticeship programme.
All apprentices should be required to gain the equivalent of GCSE grades A* to C in English and maths before they complete their training, it was suggested. He also said that a new work-based programme should be launched to support entry into employment to replace lower-level apprenticeships.
The report – which will be considered by the Government before ministers make a formal response in the New Year – said that apprenticeships should be brought up to standards in Germany where they are seen as being broadly equivalent to a degree.
“It is inappropriate for it to be viewed as a lower-status alternative to a purely academic path through university to adulthood,” the review said.
“University is clearly of value to many, paving the way to a lifetime of professional opportunity. But, however well-intentioned the desire was to drive fifty per cent of our school leavers to university without regard for their suitability for university or university’s suitability for them, the result is an unthinking collective belief that a university degree offers an indication of greater capability which it does not, in fact, confer.”
Mr Richard, founder of School for Startups, said: “I want to hear about an 18-year-old who looked at their options and turned down a place at Oxbridge to take up an apprenticeship if that is the right path for them and I want to hear that their parents were thrilled.”
Source: The Guardian