The majority (58%) of the public believe that skilled apprenticeships offer more secure job prospects than a university education, according to a new poll by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The findings follow Government plans, as part of the Industrial Strategy, to establish a technical education system that is on a par with the UK’s academic system and news of a 59% decline in apprentices taking up trainee posts since the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in April.

The survey showed concerns over the lack of information about technical and vocational career paths that schools offer. Over half of the public (56%) believe that school career advice is not adequate enough to enable students to make informed decision about their futures, with only a small proportion believing that schools offer the right advice (18%).

Peter Finegold, Head of Education and Skills at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said:

“Apprenticeships are increasingly being seen as a viable alternative to the well-trodden route of a university education, particularly given the financial burden of gaining a degree.

“But much more needs to be done to champion the opportunities that vocational careers can offer and overcome the cultural prejudices that parents might have.

“For those students who do not have engineers in their family, or who come from parts of the country without engineering heritage, we need to embed within their schooling experience how fulfilling engineering can be and broaden their exposure to what engineers do on a day-to-day basis, and the creative and conceptual skills required.

“Post-Brexit, our education system must equip young people with the skills and knowledge of the different career paths available to allow them to embark on fulfilling careers and enable UK businesses to compete on the global stage. Which is why we look forward to reading the government’s long-awaited careers strategy.

“Both teachers and parents alike play an important role in influencing a student’s choices. We need to inspire more young individuals, and work with employers and teachers to change the perception of engineering apprenticeships so that it is seen as the fascinating and highly skilled career path that it is. Technical training produces valued technical specialists who are well-paid and who often progress to the highest levels within their chosen field.”

There was broad support (79%) for initiatives already in place such as the STEM Insight scheme, where teachers spend one or two weeks in industry to enhance their understanding of the different career paths available in engineering and manufacturing.

When asked whether parents were aware if their child’s school had discussed technical training as a possible career path, only 28% of parents were aware that any such discussions had taken place.

Furthermore, only 53% of parents felt confident about explaining to their child what engineering is and what engineers do.

The survey of 2,004 individuals was conducted by ICM, on behalf of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers on 13 – 15 September.

To download and read the full results click on this link.