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2050 and the future of apprenticeships

National Apprenticeships Week is a time to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the economy. From being a route that was often looked at as a poor relation to going to university and getting a degree, in recent years apprenticeships have begun to be a larger part of the conversation on different career options.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) predicts that the UK economy is set to gain around £100 billion through apprentice recruitment by 2050. This boost to the economy is one possible reason why more organisations, individuals and political parties are looking at ways to promote them.

Closer than 2050, we can see the benefits of apprenticeships to the UK economy now. Research has shown that apprentices delivered nearly £1.8 billion of net benefits to organisations in the UK in 2012/13, with the average apprentice giving UK businesses a net benefit of £1,845 each. If successive future governments increase the number of apprenticeships, that benefit could grow significantly.

'Apprenticeships - a good career choice', a report compiled by AAT, does some future-gazing to the year 2050 to try and project future trends in the uptake of apprenticeships and which sectors will see the most growth. The largest increases in apprenticeships will likely come from sectors including Management (projected to see a 106% growth by 2025) and Business Administration (43%). Interestingly for our sector, Accountancy is also projected as one of those to see a large rise, 42%. Increases in these sectors contrast to how the majority of parents still think that apprenticeships generally lead to manual labour careers; AAT research has shown that the top three careers associated with apprenticeships by parents are Construction, Electrical, and Plumbing.

Young people also need more education about apprenticeships; a lack of adequate careers advice is evident in the fact that 41% of teens do not know that apprenticeships in professions such as accountancy and law exist. Many are also not told that if they do a Higher Apprenticeship, their expected lifetime earning premium could be £150,000, the same as a university graduate.

Since university tuition fees increased to up to £9,000, young people have been looking around for more options to get the skills they need to build successful careers, without building up a mountain of debt. In addition, there is still a scarcity of high quality jobs. Many university graduates are struggling to find employment, or are having to take jobs that normally would not require a degree. By offering apprenticeships, your business can attract the bright, capable young people who are now thinking twice about university, to your organisation.

The CEBR's projected £100 billion benefit to the economy underlines how important it is for businesses to implement high-quality apprenticeship programmes. Whilst companies such as Barclays, Tesco and British Gas increasingly offer them, the level of apprentice provision in England could still be improved. It is vital that word is spread even further, and more organisations understand the advantages of implementing an apprenticeship scheme. Your organisation needs to consider how apprenticeships can help it secure a supply of tomorrow's skilled employees, and help your business share in the CEBR's predicted £100 billion benefit.


Suzie Webb is the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) director of education. the AAT is the UK's leading qualification and professional body for vocational accountants.

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