The issue: How to make apprenticeships an attractive career option
The benefits of apprenticeships are not always obvious to potential apprentices. In many countries, apprenticeships are perceived to be linked to blue-collar jobs, offering low wages and mainly related to male-dominated sectors. A commonly held view is that work-based learning (WBL) schemes, such as apprenticeships, impose a glass ceiling on career progression. What is more, the association of any WBL programme with apprenticeships and the prevalence of informal apprenticeships with exploitative conditions in many developing countries has contributed to the persistence of these negative perceptions. Other education pathways, especially the academic path, are often seen as superior in terms of employability, income and status. Apprenticeship, in many countries, is perceived to be for poorly performing students and school drop-outs. Considering the important role played by apprenticeship schemes in enhancing a better match between the skills demanded in the labour market and those acquired through training, and in facilitating the transition of young people from school to work and preparing adults to meet the changing needs of the world of work, a strategy to overcome the pervasive negative public perception associated with apprenticeship is urgently needed. To reverse this entrenched perception, adequate promotion and advocacy of quality apprenticeships is therefore necessary.
Career guidance and counselling services can also assist in promoting apprenticeships as an attractive career option. Such services provide people with information about the world of work and help them to make informed decisions about which education and training opportunity they might take, based on their skills and aptitude and the particular requirements of various occupations. An important purpose of career guidance is also to provide young people from all backgrounds with relevant information about the labour market and specific careers. Given that young people’s choices are shaped by their social and personal circumstances, enabling them to make well-informed choices could help to break intergenerational cycles of disadvantage, while simultaneously providing employers with a broader range of potential future employees (Musset and Kurekova, 2018). Furthermore, to address issues of gender segregation in apprenticeships, it is important that all occupations, including skilled manual labour, are presented in a positive light in schools, while actively challenging gender stereotypes in all occupations.