Jo Foster, Director of the Institute of Research in Schools

Why we should all love apprenticeships

February 2023

By Jo Foster, Director of the Institute for Research in Schools


This week is Apprenticeship Week. It’s telling, perhaps, that we don’t need to have an ‘A-Level Week’, or a ‘Driving Test Week’ here in the UK; perhaps the benefits of these two qualifications seem more obvious than the benefits of an apprenticeship. It is time to change that.


Apprenticeships are a valuable and underappreciated pathway into careers in STEM. They provide practical skills and experience, lead to well-paying and rewarding jobs, and are vital for the economy. It is time for society to recognize the value of apprenticeships and to give them the same level of esteem as university routes into STEM careers. By coming together and working towards this goal, we can create a more diverse and inclusive education system that benefits everyone.


The median hourly wage for an apprentice is £8.20, which is significantly higher than the minimum wage for workers under the age of 25.

Apprenticeships are an often overlooked path into careers in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). While university education is often seen as the traditional route into these fields, apprenticeships offer a unique and equally valuable alternative that can be just as rewarding for both individuals and the economy.


One of the biggest benefits of apprenticeships is that they allow individuals to earn while they learn, providing practical experience and on-the-job training that can be difficult to obtain through traditional classroom-based education. This hands-on approach to learning can be particularly valuable in STEM fields, where practical skills and experience are often just as important as theoretical knowledge.


In addition to providing valuable skills and experience, apprenticeships can also lead to well-paying and rewarding careers. According to data from the UK Department for Education, the median hourly wage for an apprentice is £8.20, which is significantly higher than the minimum wage for workers under the age of 25. Furthermore, nearly 9 out of 10 apprentices go on to employment after completing their apprenticeship, with many securing high-skilled and well-paid jobs.


Apprenticeships are also valuable for the economy. By providing a pipeline of skilled workers to meet the needs of employers, apprenticeships help to drive economic growth and competitiveness. In the UK, apprenticeships in STEM fields are particularly important, as the demand for workers with these skills is expected to continue growing in the coming years.


Despite the many benefits of apprenticeships, they are often not given the same level of recognition and respect as university degrees. This needs to change, and there needs to be a greater appreciation for the value of apprenticeships as a viable and rewarding route into STEM careers. To help to support this change, our Pathways resources, which accompany each research project that we facilitate with schools, share career opportunities available through both apprentice and degree routes.


Schools, apprenticeship providers, and other organizations have a crucial role to play in promoting the value of apprenticeships and increasing access to these opportunities. By working together, we can help to create a more diverse and inclusive education system that provides equal opportunities for all students, regardless of whether they choose to pursue a university degree or an apprenticeship.


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