The publication of this year’s A Level results has, predictably, led to much soul-searching about the rigour of academic qualifications – and the value of an university education. It will be the same again this Thursday when new-look GCSE grades are revealed.
Yet, leaving aside the now perennial argument about whether it is right for politicians to overshadow the achievements of all those pupils who met or exceeded all expectations through their own hard work, it’s equally important not to overlook the successes of those young people undertaking apprenticeships.
With the Government hoping three million people take up ‘learn and earn’ opportunities by the end of the decade to enhance their skills, it’s timely that the University of Sheffield – an organisation competing for the next intake of under-graduates – should be highlighting this issue.
Just because a young person does not, for whatever reason, go to university should not mean that they’re written off by prospective employers or the country’s political elite. Quite the opposite. Britain is crying out for the practical-minded who can turn their hand to traditional trades.
The key is ensuring that secondary schools are not judged by the number of students who join an university but also the pupils who complete successful apprenticeships.
Not only would this help to raise awareness about the merits of on-the-the-job training in conjunction with colleges, but of the need to make sure that participants receive the support, supervision and stimulation that they need in order to enhance their own future prospects.
Their role is not to make the tea, run errands or behave like the preening candidates on TV’s The Apprentice. If the mindset is changed, there’s no reason why apprenticeships can’t receive the same recognition as university degrees, and rightly so.