Youth employment. It’s one of those debates, like business lending or performance incentives, that during the current climate is destined to keep resurfacing. And for good reason. The employability and advancement of the next generation will have a direct effect on their earning potential, meaning that the sooner they get into gainful employment the rosier our economic future becomes. Plenty of discussion has taken place around what the best routes to employment are for young people – including within our very own pages – but firm figures are few and far between.
Well, no longer. A survey carried out by market research company ICM Research on behalf of the National Apprenticeship Service has revealed that an apprenticeship is more often than not the mark of the most employable young people. When asked to rate the employability of young people of various levels of qualification and experience from one to ten, 69% of businesses rated a combination of a completed apprenticeship, a degree-level qualification and related experience as being eight or higher, compared to just 61% for a degree alone.
However, an apprenticeship can’t simply be viewed as a make or break factor in its own right. For a candidate who had an apprenticeship and experience but a Level 3 vocational qualification such as a BTEC or NVQ, scarcely more than half of respondents rated their employability as being eight or higher. This still represents a significant advantage for those with apprenticeships than those without; when an apprenticeship is removed from this equation, just 38% of business would rate a candidate as having a high employability.
A factor that is also important when dissecting the data is the industry in which a candidate is working. Unsurprisingly, the sectors which rated a full package of degree-level qualification, apprenticeship and experience highest were those in which hands-on experience carries the most value – more than four-fifths of agriculture, fishing and quarrying, IT and telecoms, and real estate rated these as having a high impact on employability. Conversely, the legal and financial services industries were those which most highly rated university graduates, with 73% and 78% of firms respectively rating them as having a high employability.
All told, this is a strong vindication of those who feel a stronger emphasis needs to be placed on apprenticeships. Nevertheless, it is far from saying the traditional higher education route doesn’t have a huge value for future generations and, understandably, in certain sectors a university degree will continue to be the lowest gate to entry.