I am delighted to be sharing the outcomes of the apprentice panel’s second national survey of apprentices.
I wanted to start by thanking the 2,016 apprentices who took the time to respond to the survey. Your feedback adds enormous power and strength to our voice as a panel. It enables us to speak with real authority about the day-to-day realities of being an apprentice and to represent the issues that matter most to you. Importantly, your responses also help us to identify opportunities for making the apprenticeship experience even better.
There is much to celebrate in this year’s survey findings, not least the fact that almost 80% of apprentices who took part in the survey said their apprenticeship has helped them to feel more empowered to have a successful career in their chosen industry. That is a resounding vote of confidence in apprenticeships as a fantastic route to a rewarding professional future.
There are also, of course, some findings that signal a need to do more to ensure all apprentices have the same high-quality experience and opportunities – wherever they work, and whatever their background. That includes access to networks that support their personal and professional growth, a guaranteed level of face-to-face contact with tutors, coaches, and mentors who can help guide their learning, and a sustained commitment from their employer and training provider to working in partnership to deliver a rich and meaningful apprenticeship experience.
This report sets out the key findings of our 2022 survey of apprentices and the apprentice panel’s recommendations for addressing those findings.
As a panel, we look forward to working with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) and others to deliver these recommendations so that, together, we can make a positive difference for apprentices everywhere.
Chair of the apprentice panel
This report shows the key findings and recommendations from a national survey of apprentices. The survey was designed and delivered by IfATE’s apprentice panel, with support from IfATE officials. This is the panel’s second survey of apprentices. The first survey was published in August 2020.
Survey questions explored apprentice views on:
The survey was for people on apprenticeship standards. It was live between February and April 2022. There were 2,016 responses. The survey is not representative of all apprentices, and findings should not be generalised beyond those who responded.
Weighting has not been applied to allow for route, level, geography, or employer size.
As in 2020, this year’s survey tells a positive story of the power of apprenticeships to develop potential and support future ambition.
Apprentices who responded to the survey told us their apprenticeship had made them feel more empowered to have successful careers in their industry – and equipped them with the knowledge, skills, and behaviours (KSBs) they need to succeed in the future.
Satisfaction with workplace opportunities for apprentices to practise the skills they were learning in training was also high. This is a defining feature of any successful apprenticeship – so this finding is hugely encouraging.
When asked about end-point assessment (EPA), most apprentices agreed that the skills they needed for their EPA were a good match for the skills needed for their occupation. Of the apprentices who had passed through their apprenticeship gateway, most were satisfied with the support they received from their training provider and employer to help them prepare. Although this is not a tracking survey, these findings compare favourably with 2020 survey findings, which showed low levels of awareness of EPA content and low satisfaction with EPA preparation. That said, apprentices seemed rather less happy with the support offered by their end-point assessment organisation.
It is reassuring to see that the majority of apprentices had received an induction from their employer and training provider and found this useful. However, very few said they had been given information at their induction on how to connect with external apprenticeship networks – something that can be of enormous value to an apprentice’s professional growth and personal wellbeing.
Reflecting on their place in the wider workforce, most apprentices said they felt as valued as other staff members, had access to the same wellbeing support as other staff, and would know who to contact if they had a welfare or wellbeing issue relating to their apprenticeship. They also agreed that both their training provider and employer take steps to support their wellbeing and would be willing to make adjustments to meet their needs. These views seem more positive than those expressed in the 2020 survey, suggesting, perhaps, that wellbeing is now higher on everyone’s agenda.
Views on support for wellbeing aside, just over two thirds of apprentices said they were satisfied with the overall quality and responsiveness of their training provider. Most were happy with the content of their learning, believing this covers up-to-date KSBs that will benefit them in their future careers. Apprentices also said, however, they would like more of their training to be face to face – with the majority stating they would ideally like at least half to be face to face, rather than online only. Currently, less than two thirds of apprentices reported this to be the case. The shift to remote working and learning has undoubtedly delivered benefits – but in-person contact with a tutor, coach, or mentor plays a vital role in supporting effective development. These findings flag a potential risk to the quality of the apprentice experience if the trend for online training delivery continues to overshadow the more personal approach that apprentices have told us they so clearly value and desire.
One of the key recommendations to emerge from the 2020 survey of apprentices advocated a strengthening of the commitment statement to encourage employers and training providers to work more collaboratively – with each other and with their apprentice – to deliver a quality apprenticeship and promote shared accountability where commitments are not met.
When asked, just over two thirds of apprentices were certain they had signed a commitment statement. Of those who had signed, the majority felt that the commitments were being met. Apprentices were less positive, however, about the quality of collaboration between their employers and training providers. Just over half agreed that their employer and training provider worked effectively together – a notable drop compared to 2020 findings. There is clearly still more to do to ensure that the commitment statement drives meaningful partnership and underpins a constant focus on working together to deliver the quality experience that every apprentice deserves.
Recommendation 1: Improve access to information about apprentice networks and other sources of support for prospective and current apprentices
As the adage goes, ‘knowledge is power’. It enables us to make the right decisions, plan for our future, make valuable connections, overcome adversity, learn, and grow in confidence. Prospective and current apprentices should have easy access to the information and support they need to make informed choices and succeed on their apprenticeship journeys. That includes access to professional and other types of peer-to-peer support networks – something that full-time college and university students are more routinely able to tap into as part of their learning and development.
Recommendation 2: Require employers to be more transparent about the balance of online and face-to-face training and support they offer to their apprentices
Like the wider workforce, apprentices have embraced the world of remote working and learning. But regular, personal contact remains vital to an apprentice’s wellbeing and development – whether through face-to-face training at a training venue or in person mentoring, coaching, or tutoring in the workplace.
Recommendation 3: Limit travel costs incurred by apprentices required to attend face-to-face training at locations remote from their place of work
As preferable and desirable as it is, face-to-face contact with a training provider can be problematic where the provider – and the training they offer – is located some distance from an apprentice’s place of work. Many apprentices earn a minimum wage. Some may have taken pay cuts to retrain, but still have mortgages to cover. All are facing the same financial pressures currently affecting the whole country. The prospect of paying significant travel costs to access apprenticeship training creates an additional financial burden that may, at best, limit choice of apprenticeship and/or force preferences for online learning and, at worst, deter some from applying at all for fear of facing financial hardship. These are important, but complex issues beyond the scope of the panel’s influence. Ensuring that apprentices do not face additional financial burdens to access training is, however, something the panel feels strongly about.
Recommendation 4: Do more to support employers in assuring apprentice wellbeing, including wellbeing in homeworking settings
As noted above, homeworking or hybrid working arrangements are now commonplace and almost certainly here to stay. It is important to remember, though, that apprentices can face a more challenging strain in wellbeing terms than some other employees. At a time when they are juggling learning, assessment, and the need to do a good job, working remotely can be an additional cause of stress. Employers have a duty of care to ensure that apprentices have the resources and support they need to learn and work effectively and safely – whether from home or the office. Many employers will already have clear and robust policies in place to safeguard apprentice wellbeing, including remote working policies. Some may still welcome guidance and support – and the apprentice panel is keen to help.
Recommendation 5: Strengthen apprentice, employer, and training provider engagement with the commitment statement, making it a more meaningful guarantee and reference point for apprenticeship quality
Commitment statements should be more than just a tick in a box, signed at the start of an apprenticeship, then filed, never to be referred to again. Successful commitment statements describe the way in which the apprentice, employer, and training provider will work together to deliver the best possible experience, at every stage of the apprenticeship journey. Importantly, they promote genuine, shared accountability for ensuring that expectations set out at the start of the apprenticeship – and enshrined in the commitment statement – are met. Following the 2020 apprentice survey, the panel recommended creating ‘a strengthened commitment statement that places more emphasis on quality of apprenticeship delivery, to hold training providers and employers to account’. This year’s survey findings show that more still needs to be done to bring this to life.
Recommendation 6: Undertake further research into the differences between the experiences of SME apprentices and apprentices who work for larger corporations
It is noticeable from survey findings that, in many of their responses, SME apprentices appear to have a more positive experience than other types of apprentices. They were more likely, for example, to say their employer and training provider worked well together, that they had a manageable workload, and that their training provider supported their wellbeing. This may be down to the smaller, more ‘family’ style set up of SME companies. Or there may well be unique practices that the panel – and IfATE – can learn from.
As well as working collaboratively with IfATE, other government departments, employers, and training providers to implement these recommendations, the apprentice panel also plans to refresh and relaunch its guidance, Raising the Standards .
Created in response to the panel’s first survey of apprentices, the guidance aims to support apprentices, training providers, and employers in working together to ensure the best possible apprenticeship experience.
The refreshed guidance will take account of 2022 survey findings and include new content on apprentice wellbeing, as well as content relating to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
With the support of IfATE, the panel aims to increase the reach of the updated guidance to promote best practice at every stage of the apprenticeship journey, making it a benchmark for excellence.
Report on findings of apprentice panel survey of apprentices – October 2022
Press notice: IfATE’s response to survey of apprentices – October 2022
Apprentice panel report on survey of apprentices – August 2020
Raisings the Standards: apprentice panel guidance on delivering high-quality apprenticeships