The role of higher education and apprenticeships: Expanding post-secondary pathways

Posted in News & Press  ·  10th July 2024

There is a growing emphasis on promoting a variety of post-secondary pathways, including apprenticeships, vocational training, and higher education. Encouraging students to consider apprenticeships as a viable alternative to university is a significant trend. This blog explores the importance of diverse educational routes, the benefits of apprenticeships, and the role of higher education in preparing students for the future. It also highlights Degree Apprenticeships and corporate responsibility in supporting apprenticeship programmes.

The importance of diverse educational routes

As the job market evolves, it’s crucial for students to have access to various post-secondary pathways that align with their interests, skills, and career aspirations. According to the UK Government’s Department for Education, offering multiple educational routes helps ensure that all students can find a path that suits their individual needs and goals. Key pathways include:

  1. Higher education: Universities and colleges offer academic courses that provide in-depth knowledge and research opportunities in various fields.
  2. Apprenticeships: Apprenticeships combine practical work experience with classroom-based learning, allowing students to earn while they learn.
  3. Vocational training: Vocational programmes focus on developing specific skills for particular trades or professions, often leading to industry-recognised qualifications.

Benefits of apprenticeships

  1. Practical experience: Apprenticeships provide hands-on experience in the workplace, helping students develop practical skills that are directly applicable to their chosen careers.
  2. Earning while learning: Apprentices earn a salary while they complete their training, making it a financially viable option for many students.
  3. Industry connections: Apprenticeships allow students to build professional networks and gain insights into their chosen industries.

The role of Higher Education

Higher education remains a vital pathway for students seeking to gain advanced knowledge and research skills in their chosen fields. Universities and colleges offer a range of academic programmes that can lead to various career opportunities. Key benefits include:

  1. Advanced learning: Higher education provides in-depth theoretical and practical knowledge in specific subjects.
  2. Research opportunities: Students have the chance to engage in research projects, contributing to advancements in their fields.
  3. Career flexibility: A university degree can open doors to a wide range of careers and higher-level positions.

Degree apprenticeships

Degree Apprenticeships combine the benefits of university education with the practical experience of apprenticeships. These programmes allow students to work towards a bachelor’s or master’s degree while gaining on-the-job experience. According to UCAS, Degree Apprenticeships are a popular choice for students who want to achieve a university-level qualification without incurring significant student debt.

Benefits of degree apprenticeships:

  1. No tuition fees: Employers and the government cover the tuition costs, making it an attractive option for students concerned about university fees.
  2. Employment opportunities: Degree Apprenticeships often lead to full-time employment with the sponsoring company upon completion.
  3. Balanced learning: Students benefit from a combination of academic study and practical work experience, providing a well-rounded education.

Corporate responsibility in apprenticeships

Businesses play a crucial role in supporting apprenticeship programmes. Corporate responsibility involves companies investing in the development of their future workforce by offering apprenticeship opportunities. This includes:

  1. Providing training and mentorship: Companies should offer comprehensive training programmes and mentorship to ensure apprentices gain valuable skills and experience.
  2. Supporting diversity and inclusion: Businesses should aim to create inclusive apprenticeship programmes that are accessible to all students, regardless of their background.
  3. Collaborating with educational institutions: Companies can partner with schools, colleges, and universities to develop apprenticeship programmes that align with industry needs and academic standards.

Practical strategies for implementation

  1. Promote diverse pathways: Schools should actively promote all post-secondary options, including higher education, apprenticeships, and vocational training, to ensure students are aware of the various routes available.
  2. Partner with employers: Develop strong partnerships with local businesses and industries to create apprenticeship opportunities and ensure students gain relevant work experience.
  3. Provide career guidance: Offer personalised career counselling to help students choose the pathway that best suits their interests, skills, and career goals.
  4. Highlight success stories: Share success stories of individuals who have taken various pathways, including apprenticeships and Degree Apprenticeships, to inspire and inform students.

Support and resources

To effectively promote and support diverse post-secondary pathways, schools can access a variety of resources:

  • UCAS: Provides information on Degree Apprenticeships and higher education options.
  • Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education: Offers guidance on apprenticeship standards and qualifications.
  • National Apprenticeship Service: Provides resources and support for students, parents, and employers regarding apprenticeships.


Promoting a variety of post-secondary pathways, including higher education and apprenticeships, is essential for preparing students for the future job market. By providing practical experience, financial benefits, and diverse career opportunities, apprenticeships serve as a valuable alternative to traditional university education. For careers advisors and heads of careers, fostering these pathways requires collaboration with employers, personalised guidance for students, and a commitment to promoting inclusive and accessible educational options.

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