07/08/2013 11:06 BST | Updated 07/10/2013 06:12 BST

Parental Preconceptions Hamper Apprenticeship Aspirations

Every year in August we like to bang the drum to let young people and their parents know that, once they've torn open their envelopes and seen their A Level results, Higher Education is not the only choice.

We talk about the other options because we think it's important that school leavers and their parents know that there are other well respected and sought after routes into professional jobs. For example, in the finance and accountancy sector, we have a strong record of offering an alternative route into the profession welcoming school leavers with the right attributes to train in the workplace as apprentices.

Now more than ever it's really important that other sectors of the economy open up their recruitment policies because we have a problem and that problem is growing. The OECD report (that came out last month) really hit home highlighting that there are more than one million under-24s in the UK who are out of work - not studying and not in training.

These findings give us a strong motive to make changes and improve options for young people. Germany which unlike the rest of Europe has an exceptionally low youth unemployment figure of 7.5% is showing the way. It has a dual education system which is continually praised because it works. Young people stay in training and education and then enter the job market ready for work and properly skilled enhancing the economy.

This year, we conducted research with 1,000 parents to gain a firmer understanding of what they knew and understood by the term 'apprenticeship'. The results surprised us. Almost two thirds (63 per cent) of parents said they lack understanding and couldn't explain apprenticeships to their child. And furthermore 81 per cent of parents were unaware that a Higher Apprenticeship is equivalent to a university-level qualification.

If we're serious about improving social mobility then we really need to do more to promote, educate and encourage our young people and their parents. This is especially so because we know that parents are some of the biggest influencers when it comes to their child's future.

Higher Apprenticeships were specifically designed to meet employers' needs with the Government recognising in The Plan for Growth how high quality skills-based training can support the economy. The decision to expand Higher Apprenticeship places was made to improve skills available to businesses whilst widening opportunities for employment and progression.

Yet still we struggle to promote and praise these pathways effectively. They don't get the recognition they deserve.

We've seen the apprenticeship model work wonders for business and people. Big employers like Rolls Royce and BAE have had major success with their apprentices - employing hundreds if not thousands of young people and training them on the job, giving them real careers.

Our research further highlighted that outdated views are still prevalent with nearly half of parents (48 per cent) thinking that apprenticeships are geared more towards boys than girls and almost a third (32 per cent) thinking they are for less academically able young people.

This is certainly not the case. Many apprenticeship programmes require good school results and for some higher apprenticeships opportunities that means five A*-C grades at GCSE at the very least. Also, apprenticeship opportunities combine work and study which means apprentices have to be dedicated if they wish to succeed as it's certainly not easy to do both.

Apprenticeships are being overlooked because parents' knowledge is incomplete and based on archaic stereotypes. While parents recognise the imperative value of workplace experience, the research clearly indicated they don't know that Higher Apprenticeships are a high quality way of gaining that vital experience.

There is clearly some work to be done in this area to increase understanding and create a more complete and holistic approach to career guidance and education not only in schools, but in the family home. Alternative options for young people will only become sought after when we change perceptions and this has to start with parents.