Employers encouraged to increase apprenticeships

Jul 6, 2023 | Apprentices & school leaver, Home Featured, Opinion

Content provided by: UCAS

New research from UCAS and the Sutton Trust encourages employers to increase opportunities for thousands of future apprentices.

Seeking to understand the barriers faced by potential apprentices, UCAS and the Sutton Trust have released the ‘Where Next: What influences the choices of would-be apprentices?’ report.

Here we share some of the insights and possible next steps employers could take to find untapped talent.

While 430,000 people are interested in learning more about apprenticeships, only 5,000 under 19s started a higher or degree apprenticeship in England in the 2021/2022 academic year. Yet a record 40% of UCAS’ student database are now interested in apprenticeships, alongside the traditional undergraduate study options.

Clare Marchant, UCAS Chief Executive said: “Our report highlights two main areas of opportunity – increasing the supply of apprenticeships and helping students, particularly those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. Employers and sector bodies can work with UCAS to drive up supply, as well as better awareness and accessibility of apprenticeship roles, to ensure we don’t miss out on a significant economic opportunity.”

With UCAS projecting a million applicants to UK higher education in a single cycle by 2030, interest in apprenticeships could reach half a million by the end of the decade. With demand increasing, here are three areas for employers to consider.


1. Make apprenticeship opportunities more accessible and visible

Firstly, it’s important to get the right information to young people – during the times they’re making application decisions, and many years in advance – to raise awareness and create parity of choice alongside university options.

Secondly, it’s important to make the process much simpler and more accessible.

Potential apprentices find it challenging to both explore and connect to opportunities. For those who do find suitable apprenticeships to apply to, the application process can be off-putting.


– 70% of respondents have a positive initial perception of apprenticeships
– But only 41% get as much information about apprenticeships as they do about university
– Only 5% of 11-year-olds consider apprenticeships, compared to one in three for university
– Only 50% of apprentices have a positive experience of applying, compared to 90% for university

Applicants can find apprenticeship opportunities on the UCAS website. But unlike traditional university study, there’s currently no central application service for apprenticeships. So applying for multiple opportunities can be challenging and stressful for young people.

But from autumn 2023, UCAS will be putting apprenticeship opportunities alongside traditional university degrees, and from 2024 people will be able to apply for apprenticeships through UCAS.

In the meantime, here are some of the ways employers can support future apprentices.

– Make your opportunities as easy to find as degree courses are – for free on ucas.com
– Engage with UCAS on the development and enhancement of their apprenticeship service
– Connect with local schools to raise awareness of apprenticeships, as early as primary school

How to list your apprenticeship vacancies on ucas.com


2. Increase the supply of high-quality apprenticeships

The level of demand for apprenticeships is huge, and an increase in opportunity could capitalise on it.

Sir Peter Lampl, Founder and Executive Chairman of the Sutton Trust, Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation said: “The potential demand for apprenticeships is massive. Breaking down the divide between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ learning is long overdue. But supply is not keeping up with demand. Delivering more apprenticeship opportunities is absolutely imperative in the coming years.”

By 2030, UCAS projects there will be a million higher education applicants in a single cycle, so the level of interest in apprenticeships is estimated to increase to half a million students a year.


– 63% of apprentices are likely to recommend apprenticeships to family or friends
– 40% of UCAS students are interested in apprenticeships as well as university
– Yet in every UK region, the lack of apprenticeship opportunities is one of the top three barriers
– 35% reported a lack of roles in their desired career
– 61% couldn’t find an apprenticeship in their preferred location

To capitalise on this growing demand, it’s key we ensure opportunities are clear, visible and well understood.

From earning and learning on the job to gaining qualifications and building career experience, the benefits for potential apprentices who are ambitious and driven are unrivalled.


3. Ensure apprenticeships are accessible to all – regardless of background

To deliver on social mobility and support those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, we need to ensure those students are supported every step of the way. We know that these students are more interested in this pathway, but less likely to enter degree apprenticeships.


– 46% of students from disadvantaged areas are interested in apprenticeships, compared to 41% from the most advantaged areas
– 63% from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to have considered apprenticeships, compared to 51% from higher socioeconomic backgrounds
– Yet 61% of former applicants listed the lack of apprenticeships near them as a top three reason for not pursuing an apprenticeship
– And 24% said they felt they couldn’t afford to become an apprentice

Some of the broad recommendations for the apprenticeship sector look at how we can support students from all backgrounds to enter apprenticeships. The Sutton Trust report that twice as many degree apprentices are from the wealthiest areas compared to the poorest.

In our report we look at how contextual information as part of the recruitment process could support students, along with financial support to support those from the lowest income backgrounds.

The upcoming UCAS apprenticeship application service will also include ways for employers to reach potential apprentices from a wide variety of different backgrounds. And the report recommends that employers should be able to use apprenticeship funding for access and outreach activities that support disadvantaged students to enter apprenticeships.

Get more insights and recommendations in the full report: Where Next? What influences the choices of would-be apprentices?


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