A good call to end snobbery about apprenticeships

Palm Paper apprentice Mareks Cooper at work in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

Palm Paper apprentice Mareks Cooper at work in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Ministers issue statements with such regularity that we tend to glaze over and have a doze. All well and good, we think, but let's wait and see what transpires.

It's a good way of keeping a name in the headlines and proving to the electorate they are earning their corn. 'Solemn promises to act' are as fragile as pie crusts... or the defending at Carrow Road last Saturday.

But the call to arms by education secretary Nicky Morgan is one of the more worthwhile statements from a minister.

She thinks it would be a good idea to force state schools to promote apprenticeships and to end the 'outdated snobbery' of academic prejudice against technical education.

And you can hear a resounding 'Here, here' echoing around the tea tables of the country.

For when Tony Blair decreed that 50pc of school leavers should go to university he blundered big time.

All that happened was that very respectable technical colleges rebranded themselves as universities and started offering three-year courses with a degree qualification, often in subjects of little use to man nor beast.

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Employers frequently complain that the degree-qualified potential employees issuing forth from such institutions might have a good knowledge of, say, the history of art or media studies but lack basic grammar and can't add up. So the minister wants to change that by ensuring that technical colleges have a fair crack of the whip, and encourage technical teachers and industry representatives to speak directly to pupils to demonstrate the advantage of apprenticeships.

With the country crying out for engineers this makes common sense.

The other point that youngsters won't be slow to understand is that there is a greater chance of living at home and not racking up such massive debt with three years and possibly more away from home.

Parents, of course, might have a different view. Work experience combined with college teaching can end up with a qualification which employers actually want and will lead to a well-paid job. Who knows, they might even be able to spell. Ms Morgan believes that schools are more likely to push their charges towards universities, as that is far more prestigious. After all, how many schools brag about the number of pupils that went on to technical colleges?

Recent research revealed that 65pc of teachers would not advise pupils with predicted university grades to consider an apprenticeship. Most teachers go from school to university and thence on to teach without ever experiencing for themselves the demands of working for a commercial company.

Might it not be a good idea to insist that potential teachers must go from academia to a private sector company for a year to see what the real world is like?

Then maybe we would end for good what Ms Morgan calls the outdated snobbery against apprenticeships. We should all wish her luck in her endeavours – but few people take on academia and win.

•There are currently 68 apprenticeships available in Norfolk on the Jobs24 website across a variety of sectors. Visit Jobs24 and apply now.