Apprentices over graduates – our lesson from the East Midlands Employment & Skills Summit

Wednesday, June 21 2017

Each year, over half a million young people start a new degree course at university.

That’s more than 500,000 talented, ambitious and enthusiastic young people who are delaying their entry into the workplace and investing £9000 each year in the ‘promise’ of a better future for themselves.

However, CT Skills has been told by leading business people, employers and industry experts that the university system simply isn’t working.

Students are leaving university with at least £27,000 of debt tied to their name. For many, it’s significantly higher than that because of the costs of accommodation accumulated during their degree.

Graduates have an additional and even more worrying concern, however, in that the skills they are leaving with are deemed inadequate by employers. This means graduates either aren’t getting the well-paid jobs they were promised OR they aren’t getting any jobs at all.

It’s leaving employers with crippling skills shortages and the UK economy is left picking up the pieces. 

The government aren’t getting a return on their heavy investment in degrees because around 40 per cent of graduates aren’t paying back their loans. Why? They’re not earning above the £21,000 threshold which requires them to do so.

CT Skills were at the East Midlands Employment and Skills Summit on Tuesday and met with other recruitment and training providers as well as leading businesses in the region and across the world.

A panel of industry experts discuss the future of education at the summit. Photo: CT Skills

JCB, a British multinational corporation, told the summit that the skills shortage “continues to be a problem” and that “the education system isn’t delivering what we need.”

Further to this, over half of businesses who are looking to recruit have consistently reported difficulties in finding the people they need, with a whopping two thirds of businesses saying that the work readiness of young people entering the labour market wasn’t good enough.

The issues included a lack of communication skills, a lack of sector knowledge, a poor work ethic, and substandard timekeeping. 

And with 86 per cent of businesses planning to grow over the next two years, universities and degrees are simply not delivering students with the right skills set to meet the needs of today’s businesses. 

In today’s rapidly changing world, many degrees are not fit for purpose as they take too long to complete and by the time a student finishes their course, the world of work has changed drastically. 

We believe, and businesses are increasingly recognising, that apprenticeships are the solution.

Apprentices not only get their education for free and get paid for their work, but they are also learning on the job and gaining all the skills that employers find valuable in a much quicker time than a degree.

Learners finish their apprenticeships having done at least 12-18 months’ work for a business and obtaining the most up-to-date knowledge of the sector and of how business works.

What’s more, statistically, apprentices are more loyal to a company and work there for longer than graduates who are looking to progress their careers by moving through different firms.

As a result, businesses are increasingly preferring apprentices over graduates.


If you would like to speak to CT Skills about this story for further information or comment, please email or call Jarrad Johnson on 07779 411978. 


By Jarrad Johnson, PR & Communications Executive