The Road Less Travelled
Very few Advanced Apprentices currently progress to higher education – for most, this is the road less travelled. As the government has clearly indicated that the burden of funding higher education will shift from the state towards individuals and employers, it is increasingly important to understand why some employers support the progression of their Advanced Apprentices and to identify the associated costs and benefits. To increase the proportion of Advanced Apprentices that progress to higher education (currently around 4% compared to 90% of A-level learners) it is essential to learn from the minority of employers that support progression. The Road Less Travelled highlights the experiences of 18 such employers, many of them household names, and our research suggests that:
- Employers support progression to a wide range of higher education qualifications including Foundation degrees, HNCs/HNDs and Higher Apprenticeships. Several support onward progression to Honours and Master’s degrees.
- The benefits of supporting progression outweigh the costs. A more highly skilled workforce is linked to increased productivity and profitability. Most employers highlighted the benefits of growing and investing in their own employees rather than recruiting externally, particularly as this leads to increased levels of staff motivation and retention.
- It can be a big step from an Advanced Apprenticeship to higher education and the transition to a more self-guided style of learning can be a particular challenge. However, all of the employers we consulted reported that Advanced Apprentices progress equally well once they reach higher education as those that enter HE with more ‘traditional’ academic qualifications.
- A lack of appropriate HE provision can be a major barrier to progression in some sectors. Several engineering employers explained how difficult it can be to source relevant provision that is delivered in a responsive way.
- Many employers reported that Advanced Apprentices tend to be unsure about certain aspects of higher education, particularly the financial support available. In these instances, the provision of high quality information, advice and guidance (IAG) can be a real enabler to progression.
Almost all of the employers we consulted indicated that they would continue to support progression even as the financial contribution from the state reduces in size. This is encouraging, and we hope that the lessons from this report will help to increase the number of employers that support their employees to progress along the road from an Advanced Apprenticeship to higher education.
The full report 'The Road Less Travelled' can be found here.