AllAboutResearch's School Leaver Careers Market report showed that, when presented with an anonymous choice between a Degree Apprenticeship and the traditional university route – those surveyed were provided with the different elements of each programme, without a specific title – a Degree Apprenticeship is the far more popular route for students.
When provided with information about an apprenticeship programme – the level of qualification gained, the duration of the programme, the cost (nothing for a Degree Apprenticeship, significantly more for a university degree) employment status, salary of participants, and study status – but without using the word "apprenticeship", almost three quarters of respondents said that this would be their preferred option.
This stigma doesn't just apply to young people: it's stopping those already established in their careers taking the opportunity to further upskill themselves through programmes like Degree Apprenticeships and even apprenticeships at a postgraduate level.
The Institute of Leadership and Management carried out research earlier this year, and found the stigma surrounding apprenticeships could be preventing mid and senior level employees from accessing valuable training funds to improve their management and leadership skills.
The research, which looked at the training budgets and preferences of 1,000 UK HR decision makers, revealed that 58% of those surveyed feel middle and senior managers would be unwilling to be seen as an apprentice, citing the "reputation and image" of apprenticeships (53%) and the implication it means they need additional support (41%) as the main reasons for this.
Employers could use rebranding to sidestep this stigma and increase interest in their programmes, labelling their Degree Apprenticeships as "scholarships", for example: a word that people understand in terms of gaining funds for study, but one that doesn't have the same stigma attached to it.
Another way employers might help eliminate the stigma attached to apprenticeships could be by presenting them as their own entities: without reference or comparison to regular university degrees. Maybe this frames the programmes as an 'alternative' to university, rather than a stand-alone option in its own right.
Employers could pitch Degree Apprenticeships to young people – in campaign material, at talks and events, during conversations with young people – as unique opportunities, with their own benefits (extensive hands-on work experience, gaining soft skills) and merits, not as programmes trying to 'keep up' with university.
If employers start talking about Degree Apprenticeships in different ways – whether that's what they call the programmes, how they frame them, or both – they could see an increase in uptake.