Thursday 26 January 2017 12:01 am

Apprentices match university counterparts for happiness and life satisfaction

School leavers who choose an apprenticeship over further education are just as “satisfied with life” as people who go to university, a new study has found.

9,500 young people were examined as part of a research project conducted by UCL and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The study concluded that there is no “right way” of moving from teenage years to adult life but many youngsters are being held back from higher education by their family circumstances.

Roughly 45 per cent of young people are going from school to a higher education institute, while 42 per cent are moving into the labour market. The report's authors highlighted the positive role of work in making young people feel valued and productive, but they also warned that unfulfilling employment is “detrimental to the well being” of millennials.

The report also confirmed fears about the ways in which the socio-economic backgrounds of young people are presenting barriers to academic attainment in later life. Young people hit by multiple socioeconomic risks were the most likely to fall short of their aspirations, as they has been “growing up in a family where the parents had little education, the gross household income was less than £10,400 per year, or where none of the parents were working”.


Of the individuals interviewed for the study, 13 per cent spent prolonged times outside of education or employment, 6 per cent made use of vocational training prior to employment. 20 year olds were found to be the least satisfied with their lives on average.

Disadvantaged young people who told the researchers they “felt they were academically able” were at a higher risk of leaving school and being out of employment or further education. For the researchers, this implied that there could be a “dark side” for young people who have high levels of self-confidence but are constrained by their backgrounds.

“It is encouraging that young people who find a viable career path after leaving school are just as happy with their lives regardless of whether they go on to university, an apprenticeship or work. This suggests there isn’t just one way to successfully transition into adulthood,” said Prof Ingrid Schoon, the study’s lead author.

“We must make sure that there are equal opportunities for young people who do not pursue higher education immediately after completing secondary education – this includes good quality vocational training and local labour market opportunities, particularly in the most deprived neighbourhoods.”