Why British Employers Prefer Apprentices, not Graduates


Writing in the Education Supplement to The Independent on 7th January 2011 Education Editor Richard Garner british employers increased  tuition feesrevealed that thousands of 2010 school-leavers may be risking their careers by registering for university as opposed to taking out apprenticeships. He bases his opinions on the results of a City & Guilds survey of 500 British employers just released. 

Commenting on these poll results City & Guilds Director General Chris Jones added that the most likely reason for employers’ preferences for apprentices is that they foresee a faster ROI through them at least in part because they pick up company culture quicker and are job ready too. What does this say for the caliber of University Education.

Could this mean that current tougher economic times in the United Kingdom are heralding a return to days when school-leavers went straight on to work? Perhaps British employers do not want graduates squeezed through the government’s 50%-target sausage machine, or perhaps they are becoming more expensive thanks to increased tuition fees. Whatever the real reason some commentators are british employers increased  tuition feesbeginning to wonder whether the United Kingdom government is out of step with market reality insofar as its education policy is concerned.

When opposition Labor Party spokesperson Gordon Marsden expressed pleasure at the prospect of more skilled British tradespeople entering the labor market, he also cast a damper when he pointed out that 20% of firms consider conditions too risky in the current climate to take on another apprentice at all. This situation is being further exacerbated by the number of aspirant students who will be statistically denied admission. This is because of the number of applicants hoping to stay ahead of the threat of increasing university tuition fees by applying now, instead of taking gap years..

Academics were already predicting that higher education costs would discourage disadvantaged students from applying, especially in view of the likely shortage of jobs when they graduate. When the chips are down and jobs are short it seems thebritish employers increased  tuition fees old school tie still rules in England regardless of what anybody says?

Tory MP for Carlisle has been quoted as saying that “apprenticeship has been overlooked for far too long”. Did he finally admit that increased tuition fees mean fewer students, or did the Labor Party spokesman get it wrong? Higher education in England has been a slow on-ramp to the job market for many years – a sudden glut of job-seekers denied higher education opportunities might have long term unforeseen ramifications for British employers in a staggering economy. Will the Island Nation be witness to returning Dole queues?

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