Apprenticeships: what parents think about them and what you need to know

03 February 2020

apprentices in a board room

Feeling a little overwhelmed with navigating the labyrinth of career and education choices for your child? Considering an apprenticeship but not sure what that really means? To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, we’ve been working with the Department for Education to find out what Mumsnet users think about apprenticeships, digging into any reservations parents might have, as well as providing information and advice to help you and your child make the right decision.

What is an apprenticeship? | What parents think about apprenticeships | How to find an apprenticeship

9 out of 10 Mumsnet users are parents, and so it stands to reason that education is one of the most crucial and hotly debated topics on our forums. As well as the value of learning in itself, Mumsnet users talk a lot about how educational decisions can help (or hinder) children in finding future careers in which they can be happy, stimulated and challenged.

Some children seem to know what they want to do from the moment they’re out of nappies, but for others, making career choices can feel really overwhelming. And for parents, trying to guide our children through a maze of qualifications, degree or apprenticeship choices, and first jobs and internships can feel pretty difficult too, especially if your brain keeps screaming ‘But what if the robots take all the jobs!’ (Please tell us we’re not the only ones thinking that.)

And let’s face it: the kneejerk assumption for some parents is that university is perhaps more prestigious than an apprenticeship, or that a degree is more valued by employers. But is that true? And what do Mumsnet users think? Read on to see.

apprentice at a computer

What Mumsnet users think about apprenticeships

Our research, using responses from 1000 Mumsnet users with children aged 13-18, delved into attitudes towards everything from pay to progression. Our headline findings were:

  • A significant proportion of parents are concerned their child would be stuck making the tea. More than three in five parents (63%) said they are concerned their child would be doing basic menial tasks if they were to choose an apprenticeship
  • More than one-third of parents associate apprenticeships with manual trades
  • Awareness of degree apprenticeships remains relatively low; 45% say they haven’t heard of them
  • 45% say they don’t think apprenticeships are valued as highly as a university degree by the UK’s top employers, while roughly one in three (35%) are unsure how an employer would view an apprenticeship compared to a university degree
  • Almost half (48%) of parents surveyed said they wouldn’t be worried about the future earning potential of their child should they choose an apprenticeship
  • Apprenticeships are viewed as being inclusive; 67% of respondents feel that apprenticeships are for everyone, regardless of background or age

See the full results of our research

apprentice at a workshop

Here’s some information about apprenticeships from the Department of Education (DfE):

What is an apprenticeship?

As the Mumsnet research results show, parents tend to think of apprenticeships as being trades-based. Sometimes they’re also thought of as being unchallenging or low-quality. But a lot has changed in apprenticeships over the past few decades. With more funding, higher minimum requirements and the development of occupation-focused standards, the quality of apprenticeships has been driven up and employers are taking notice.

While earning a wage, apprentices gain highly transferable skills and training (which could include a degree) to set them up for a wide range of career paths. Alongside this, they’ll gain hands-on experience in a real-world setting – an invaluable asset when it comes to future employment.

If your child chooses an apprenticeship:

  • They'll earn a salary – and their training will be paid for

An apprenticeship can boost a young person’s career while offering great financial benefits. They’ll be paid (at least the apprentice national minimum wage, but often a more competitive salary), and they’ll spend at least 20% of their time completing off-the-job training – at no cost to them. This could include working towards a degree or other qualifications. At the same time, they’ll gain experience in a real workplace, and develop important soft skills as they transition into the world of work.

  • They'll get experience in a relevant role, plus career-boosting skills

From digital marketing and teaching to dental healthcare and textile manufacturing, there’s an apprenticeship for everyone – and more apprenticeships are currently in development. During the apprenticeship, your child will gain important insight into their chosen industry – and if they decide the occupation isn’t for them, they’ll be equipped with skills and experience to make them extremely employable, no matter what step they take next. In fact, 88% of apprentices remain in employment after completing their apprenticeship.

manual apprenticeship

National Apprenticeship Week (3-9 February 2020)

The theme for 2020's National Apprenticeship Week was ‘Look Beyond’, and the aim to challenge preconceptions about apprenticeships, and help parents and students to check out the diverse career options and industries that apprenticeships can open up.

How to find an apprenticeship

  • The apprenticeships.gov.uk website is a great starting point for researching apprenticeships and has a section dedicated to parents. You can also follow them on Twitter @Apprenticeships on Twitter.
  • The National Careers Service site is packed with tips on all types of career routes, from overall interview advice to the top 10 questions your child could be asked

For more information on Mumsnet and the DfE's research, take a look at the press release announcement