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Re-Educating Our Schools

Juice Academy administrator to school receptionist: “Hello, would you like one of our social media specialists to come to your school during National Apprenticeship Week to speak about a career in social media and how your students could gain one via our apprenticeship?” School receptionist: “Well, feel free to send an email but I very much doubt we’d be interested – all of our students go to university.’

Yes, really.

I’ve spent much of this week – National Apprenticeship Week – taking part in conferences, round tables and media activity, to continue raising the profile of our industry-led social media apprenticeship programme, but also to hear the latest thinking in the wonderful world of apprenticeships.

And I’ve met some amazingly dedicated people, representing some of the best companies our region has to offer – small and huge. And, while there are many impressive strides forward, the one sticking point seems to be in an absolutely critical area which should actually be leading the way – schools.

There’s a firm consensus that our schools are just too far removed from the world of business AND still far from convinced about apprenticeships. (Do they still think they’re all hairdressers and plumbers…? Sigh.)

The vast majority of the apprentices I speak with – and literally every one of the superb apprentice speakers at the NAS conference this week – said their schools and colleges didn’t even mention apprenticeships as an option to university. They were just given the UCAS forms and told to fill them in! In fact, even more worrying, when these bright young people did some exploring themselves and decided that apprenticeships might be a way forward, they were actively discouraged from this option by their teachers and career advisors – what the…?

Now I don’t know the ins and the outs of this but I’m told that schools only get an Ofsted tick in the box if their students go on to university? And it’s all about the league tables, right? Well this is surely a VERY easy wrong to right – include a box for apprenticeships! With all the noise every political party is making about the importance of apprenticeships, it’s astonishing to me that this hasn’t already been done.

And on the subject of business speakers in schools, while you’d expect our schools to be literally welcoming them with open arms, grateful for the opportunity to let their students glimpse a wide range of career paths, from our experience, and the anecdotes this week, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Pretty much every person I spoke to or heard speak this week, said the same: schools are the sticking point. Even when you can find the best person to speak to (usually after being passed from pillar to post – you have to be tenacious), they’re less than enthusiastic, often acting as if you’re interrupting their day job and then, when you mention apprenticeships, you get a response often akin to the above.

This is just astonishing to me. Surely schools should be inviting a business a week (a day!!) to speak and also exploring and sharing every career path with their students – so why isn’t this happening?

And how come we’re all having the same problem? Surely (surely!) someone somewhere in a central Government department, should have a list of school contacts that can be kept up to date and shared with employers who want to give their time FREE OF CHARGE to help schools inspire their students?

Now obviously I’m generalising and there are some exemplar schools – a superstar among career advisors, for instance, is Tony Dann at St John Rigby and Winstanley College.

But these are, sadly, the exception rather than the norm and it’s time (beyond time) for change.

Businesses - what are your thoughts/experiences? Any ideas? What’s worked for you?

Schools – what are we doing wrong? How can things change?

Just ….help?

For more information about The Juice Academy, our own award winning digital apprenticeship programme, please visit

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