The earning power of apprenticeships

The Guardian - 21 Dec 2018

Laura McInerney’s wish to instil greater equality in the education system is laudable. However, in seeking to draw a contrast between degrees and apprenticeships, she uses misleading comparisons (The rich kid with a degree; the poor kid with an apprenticeship – that is not a world of parity, 18 December).

While demonstrating the value of a degree to one’s earnings prospects, McInerney cites a recent report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which found that “women who attended university in the 2000s earned over 50% more by the age of 29 than those who did not”. This statement fails to distinguish between the fortunes of non-graduates in general and those with an apprenticeship. It fails also to note another key finding from the IFS report – that “some subject choices … actually appear to result in lower earnings at age 29 than not going to university at all”.

Indeed, research I commissioned from the Office for National Statistics has found that graduates’ median hourly pay fell in 2016, while the median hourly pay of non-graduates who had completed an apprenticeship increased by 3.7%. Hence the proportion of graduates earning lower gross hourly pay than their peers who have completed an apprenticeship was four percentage points higher in 2016 than in 2005.

Any party seeking to gain traction with young voters must surely seize upon these trends, by opening up apprenticeships to as many youngsters as possible and, in so doing, giving them a firm footing on the pay ladder once they have left school.

Frank Field MP
Independent, Birkenhead