27/11/2012 08:36 GMT | Updated 27/11/2012 09:15 GMT

Apprenticeships Should Be Equal To University Degrees, Says Dragons' Den Star Doug Richard

Apprenticeships should be equal to degrees, a report commissioned by the government has urged, although public opinion remains divided.

Entrepreneur and Dragons' Den star Doug Richard, who undertook the independent review said he wanted to hear of more teenagers rejecting Oxbridge in favour of apprenticeships.

"We need to make sure that apprenticeships are the success story they deserve to be," he said, following the publication of the report on Tuesday. "No matter who I speak with, everyone agrees that apprenticeships are a good thing – but only when they are ‘true’ apprenticeships.

"I want to hear about an 18 year old who looked at their options and turned down a place at Oxbridge to take up an apprenticeship if that is the right path for them.

"And," he added, "I want to hear that their parents were thrilled."

The Richard Review follows calls from former Labour schools minister Lord Adonis, who said there should be as many apprenticeships on offer to school leavers as there are university places.

"Our basic problem for the 50% that do not go to university is there's nothing like university that acts as a magnet for them in terms of aspiration to get on or getting out of bed in the morning," he said earlier this month. "My own view is the only way we'll crack this is if we have a revolution in apprenticeships."

In the face of rising tuition fees, more young people are questioning the value of university, with many saying it is simply "not worth it".

The National Union of Students has welcomed the review, with the president of the Scottish arm telling HuffPost UK:

Toni Pearce, vice president of NUS England, said there is "no doubt" an increased number of apprenticeships is a positive step but they have to be accessible to all.

"Asking those aged 24 and above to pay up to £4000 a year to work as an apprentice could clearly act as a tremendous deterrent, and could see the number of older apprentices fall dramatically. The government must back up its support for apprenticeships by investing in apprentices of all ages.

"Increased focus on the outcomes of apprenticeships and creating industry standards would improve quality and ensure they are a valuable pathway for those entering industries where skills are required."

Business secretary Vince Cable supported Richard's suggestions, which he said echoed the government's vision to put employers in the driving seat of apprenticeship programmes.

"This will be vital to ensure the skills of our workforce fit with employer needs," he continued. "His recommendations will help us to build on the current successes of our apprenticeships programme and tailor a programme which is sustainable, high-quality and meets the changing needs of our economy in the decades to come."