Apprenticeships: Beyond the ‘oily rag’

Ahead of National Apprenticeships Week this week, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Apprenticeships, for which Connect provides the secretariat, launched the results of the second annual Industry Apprentice Council (IAC) survey of industry apprentices, which made for worrying reading.

Of the 1,300 apprentices surveyed, 40% found their experience of careers information, advice and guidance to be poor or very poor. The survey also showed that only 13% of apprentices felt that their apprenticeship was perceived as being equivalent to gaining higher education qualifications by those in their school or college.

It is clear that there is consensus about the urgent need for more collaboration, innovation and partnership between apprenticeship providers. Indeed, the Chair of the APPG on Apprenticeships, Gordon Birtwistle MP, laid down a challenge that we should place a qualified careers advisor in every secondary school, so that careers advice can start from the age of 12.

What is clear is that often apprentices themselves are the best ambassadors for apprenticeships. At Connect we have seen this first hand through our work with Pimlico Plumbers, and it was evidenced again by speeches made at the APPG meeting by the three apprentices from the Industry Apprentice Council: Jade Aspinall, John Coombes and Matt Weigh. They were able to recount their own recent experiences of careers advice or lack thereof, including the difficulty some had had to persuade their parents that an apprenticeship was a viable career path, in one case having to attend interviews in secret.

The passion and eloquence with which the apprentices spoke was inspirational and all stakeholders were in agreement that it is vital that existing apprentices are able to visit schools and colleges to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with others. This is crucial to harnessing this passion in order to challenge the established belief that an apprenticeship is less desirable than gaining higher education qualifications. We need to challenge the ‘oily rag’ image of apprenticeships, and show young people that there are opportunities for them in all walks of life: from creative industries to designing parts for missiles! The message from the apprentices present at the meeting was clear; the quality of apprenticeships on offer is extremely high and it is time the UK championed our apprentices as much as our graduates.

Over 90 stakeholders, including training providers and organisations already taking on apprenticeships, attended the meeting of the group, which is supported by EAL. Connect is currently seeking to expand the APPG on Apprenticeships for the next parliament. For more information about the APPG on Apprenticeships please get in touch via

Connect has significant experience in providing support for APPGs, and provides the secretariat function for the groups on Water, Youth Affairs, Apprenticeships and Yorkshire and Humber. In addition to managing all logistical elements of the groups, we also work with parliamentarians and support our client to run inquiries, hold innovative events and identify new sponsorship opportunities. If you have an idea for an APPG that you would like to discuss, please contact David Button via or 020 7592 9592.

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