Call to change perceptions of apprenticeships

Report claims misconceptions of post-GCSE options affect career choice.

As hoards of teenagers in Birmingham await GCSE results, new research out today reveals that parents aren’t fully clued up when it comes to the options available to their children. More than a third (36%) of parents in Birmingham don’t know the value of an apprenticeship, signalling a wider awareness problem for youngsters when it comes to life after GCSE’s.

This lack of awareness is impacting career choices and creating a skills gaps in key industries. 

Parents in the city said that the reasons for not encouraging their child to undertake an apprenticeship were that they were thought to be poorly paid (64%), because they see it as a last resort for those who fail their exams (34%), and that apprenticeships are too labour-intensive (27%).

With a lack of knowledge amongst parents it’s unsurprising that, despite being on the brink of making decisions about the direction of thier career, the majority (64%) of young people in Birmingham don’t know either.

The new research – which was independently commissioned by ABM UK – calls for more support to be given to parents to equip them with the right knowledge and information to pass onto their children.

ABM UK Director Adam Baker commented: “As young people in Birmingham find out their fate, we were shocked to find a genuine lack of knowledge of apprenticeships amongst parents across the city, and that many still consider them to be a last resort for children who fail their exams.

“It’s symptomatic of a wider perception problem when it comes to apprenticeships, and shows a need for a more unified approach and a better way of communicating, especially at this time of year when young people are making career-defining choices. Apprenticeships shouldn’t be pigeon-holed or disregarded from the conversation.”

When asked who or what influences these decisions, young people in Birmingham said parents were number one (67%), followed by teachers and school (33%), the lessons children enjoy (30%) and then friends (14%).

Of those parents who knew what an apprenticeship was, just 15 per cent considered it to be a good option, with nearly three times as many parents (42%) saying that they wanted their children to attend university, despite crippling tuition fees and long-term debt prospects.

Marissa Francis, Apprentice of the Year 2017 and HVAC Improver and graduate apprentice at ABM UK, commented: “After leaving school I was unsure what I wanted to do – there just wasn’t much, if any, careers guidance available. There was also a lot of pressure to go to university; but I wanted to get hands-on experience, to learn essential skills in practice rather than in theory, and to start earning as soon as possible.

“I applied for and was eventually accepted on to ABM UK’s apprenticeship programme, which gave me the opportunity to earn while I was learning. For me, it was a perfect fit, and I wish I had known about this kind of opportunity much earlier, particularly when I was at school.”

In her role of ABM UK J.E.E.P Ambassador, Stemettes co-founder and youngest person to pass GCSEs, CEO Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon was encouraged by some of the findings, saying: “Mainstream education is often publicised as the ‘only’ route but this is not true. Apprenticeships are a fantastic viable alternative, which allows young people to earn while they learn and then, often before they are 20 years of age, have debt-free foundations from which to build a solid, well-paid career.

For many, this is the perfect route to a fulfilling and successful career – not enough people know about the breadth and availability of apprenticeships.”

The engineering and facilities management industries are particularly disadvantaged by the awareness gap; 60 per cent of young people in Birmingham said that they were unlikely to even consider working in engineering or facilities management, with nearly two-fifths (38%) saying that they wouldn’t consider working in this area because they didn’t know anything about it.

When asked, just a fifth (19%) of parents said they would encourage their children to consider careers in these areas.

Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management CEO Linda Hausmanis said: “The facilities and workplace management industry is currently experiencing a serious skills gap preventing it from reaching its full economic potential. This is a diverse industry with relatively low barriers to entry and yet excellent prospects, supported by a career pathway from entry to executive level.”

ABM UK commissioned the research as part of its ongoing commitment to attract new talent to the engineering and facilities management industry. In January this year it welcomed 36 schoolchildren into the pilot of its first-ever Junior Engineering Engagement Programme (J.E.E.P) and is encouraging secondary schools in Birmingham to find out more via

ABM UK Director Adam Baker continued: “Our programme aims to actively recruit new talent into the industry – it’s time to shake off the view that technical careers are about oily rags and no prospects. In reality recruits in this sector are in such high demand that graduate apprentices are earning between £26,000 and £30,000 just a year after qualifying – usually before they’re 20 years old – and they have no debt.

“This is an issue we need to tackle now. We know that business leaders across the industry acknowledge that shortages of skilled staff will impact the success of their business, making it clear that filling the knowledge gap doesn’t solely sit with the government or parents. It’s everyone’s responsibility – including industry bodies and commercial enterprises – to collaborate in fixing the problem.”

For full details of the research commissioned by ABM UK, or ABM’s Junior Engineering Engagement Programme visit