Things are looking bleak as university fees are set to rise over a three year period and this year will increase to £9,250. Not only that, but the interest rate charged on student loans will also rise from 4.6% to 6.1%; surely this will create a huge barrier for some students?
Tony Blair pledged that he would enable young people to get better, higher skilled jobs, earn more money, by making them better qualified. In turn they would pay more tax which in turn would boost the economy. He set an ambitious target to get half of young people into university. He achieved this, but also perpetuated the belief that you need to attend university to do well.
Instead of a highly skilled workforce earning good wages for highly skilled work, we have an averagely skilled workforce earning low wages in low skill jobs and almost 25% of all 21-year-olds who have left university with a degree are unemployed. Even more concerning is research which shows that 58.8% of UK graduates end up in non-graduate jobs, and around one in 12 of those working in low skilled jobs, such as in coffee shops, bars, call centres and at hospitality events, are now graduates.
This is not to say that university is not the correct option; for many people, it is and to enter some professions it is mandatory. My fear is that students are being misled into believing that they must go to university, and get a degree in order to be successful and get a job, which is clearly not true.
The UK has a low unemployment rate of 4.7% which on paper looks very good. However the unemployment rate for 18-24 year olds is considerably higher at 10.9%. Considering the high number of students of this age in education you would expect this rate to be much lower. Keeping people in education should keep youth unemployment statistics low, but as the cost of going to university becomes prohibitive we are likely to see those statistics change.
It is time to change the mentality of a one size fits all approach as we can clearly see it is not working. We need to inform students of all the options available to them from a younger age to give them time to research and make the correct decisions.
I went to sixth form with the plan of going to university, but am thankful I chose to do an apprenticeship. Recent statistics show that, on average, a graduate earns less five years after graduation (£26,000) than a level 5 apprentice two years after completion (£27,800). Also, the apprentice earns a wage throughout training while the average student debt incurred over the course of a university degree is £44k.
This week my assessor came in to review my progress in my apprenticeship work. She said I was ahead of target which was great to hear and puts me in a good position for the rest of my course. I look forwards to seeing her next month to review my progress once again.