Parents still prefer their children to attend university despite benefits of apprenticeships according to new poll

9 March 2016

A study by Nationwide Building Society has found that two thirds of British parents would prefer their children to go to university despite debt concerns and the opportunities that apprenticeships can offer.

  • Almost 70% associate apprenticeships with the construction industry
  • 71% think the minimum apprenticeship wage is too low
  • 60% of parents think poor pay is the biggest drawback to becoming an apprentice
  • Student debt is a concern when it comes to a university career path
  • 66% of people would prefer their children to go to university above any other career option

Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week (March 14 - 20), a poll commission by Nationwide asked 2,000 parents of under 18-year-olds their views of their children’s career options.

The findings show that 66% of parents would prefer their children to go to university compared to 27% who would prefer their children to become an apprentice. This is despite parents thinking that earning while learning is the biggest benefit of becoming an apprentice and over half of parents (57%) believing that apprenticeships offer people more opportunity to progress in a career path compared to university. Over three-quarters of those questioned (76%) think that their child would consider becoming an apprentice.

However, more than 71% of parents said that the £3.30 per hour apprentice minimum wage was too low. At Nationwide all apprentices are paid at least £8.25 per hour (£15,015 per year) which is the Living Wage. Would-be apprentices also have the option of applying for an advanced or higher apprenticeship which gives them the option of studying for a qualification which is the equivalent to A Level or degree level respectively.

The study found that over three quarters (79%) of parents said that student debt was a concern when it came to university with only 56% polled saying that they felt the debt would be worth it.

Nationwide’s HR Director Ann Brown said: “We understand that for younger people parents play an important part in their career choices which is why their views are so important. It’s clear that apprenticeships are still associated with manual labour and I would urge parents and their children to find out about the opportunities that other industries offer. There’s a clear contradiction here with parents wanting their children to attend university but having real concerns about debt.

“At Nationwide you can study to degree level, be paid at least the Living Wage while doing it and have a permanent job from the outset. It’s time to start challenging the misconception that becoming an apprentice is a poorly paid option with limited career development opportunities.”

When asked what age people typically associated with apprentices, 58% said 18-20-year-olds. Less than 22% associated apprenticeships with over 25-year-olds. 85% of people believe apprenticeships should be targeted at all age groups.

Ann Brown added: “Our apprenticeships are available to people over the age of 16. Because we pay the Living Wage they are a viable option for older people looking to return to work after a career break, or those who want to start a career in a different field. ”

Case study

Jack Scott, 19, from near Oxford chose to become an apprentice at Nationwide despite being accepted to study business studies at university last year. He decided to opt for the apprenticeship scheme after a useful work experience stint at Nationwide’s HQ in Swindon and some time out travelling which allowed him to make this life-changing choice.

“I chose Nationwide because I liked it here and I want a career in financial services. There’s a great culture at Nationwide and that was clear from the moment I started my work experience placement,” he said.

“The way I look at it I’m in a win win situation – I’m studying to become a Chartered Accountant with CIMA which Nationwide is funding and I’m also earning a wage while gaining great experience.

“The only thing I think I could miss out on I suppose is the social side of university but I’ve made some great friends here with the other apprentices and colleagues so I’m not too concerned.”

Jack is a Higher Apprentice which is a 3 to 5 year programme that enables him to pursue an externally recognised qualification to degree level.

“Some people think I should have gone to university but when I list all the benefits of becoming a Nationwide apprentice they soon change their mind. I’ve worked out that if I’d gone to university I’d come out in £50,000 debt – that’s something I don’t have to worry about now. My mum was supportive of my decision but my dad thought I’d go to university – once I told him about Nationwide though he soon came around!

“The fact they pay the Living Wage (£8.25 per hour) is significant – lots of employers don’t and I think the minimum wage of £3.30 is far too low and it sends the wrong message. I have a role and responsibilities and I should be paid a wage that reflects this – it’s good that Nationwide recognises this.

“My advice to people who are making those difficult career choices right now would be to avoid following the crowd – what’s right for other people may not be right for you.”

Find out more about the apprenticeship scheme

Notes to Editors

Research carried out by 4media relations from 10 February – 15 February 2016 across the UK. The survey consisted of 2,000 respondents and a mixture of age, gender and location.

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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