Thinking about what you will do after school of college often boils down to two things – whether to go to university, or whether to go out and find a job. However, these are not the only options available to you, and you may find that an apprenticeship will suit you even better. There are a number of benefits to opting for an apprenticeship – both for your career and your finances, but if you never get to hear about them how are you supposed to make an informed choice for your future?
It is fair to say that schools and colleges have a strongly academic slant when it comes to advising young people what to do next. University is almost seen as a natural progression from A-levels, despite the costs involved and this may be because the very teachers who are often advising you went to university themselves. Working from their own experiences they probably don’t recognise how apprenticeships have changed over the years to become a genuinely viable alternative. Indeed, some might say that an apprenticeship is a better way to start your career than spending three years at uni.
The truth is that apprenticeships, far from being a new thing, have been around for centuries. Learning a trade or craft from someone with experience was the main way to create a career for yourself before more recent times when a university education became easily accessible to all members of society. Perhaps it is this opening up of university education that gave it its kudos, but these days some of the shine has worn off.
Tuition fees are a huge financial burden for many, and unsurprisingly many young people are concerned about building up thousands in debt while figures show that many graduates end up working in lower-paid jobs that they may not have needed their degree to get into in the first place! By contrast, the majority of apprentices find relevant employment as soon as they qualify, with a third of them getting promoted within their first 12 months of work. This may well be because an apprenticeship teaches you direct work-related skills alongside offering on-the-job experience as you train – and all without fees!
But surely, there are some careers that require a university degree?
It is still true that some careers will require you to have a university degree, but this number is falling as more employers see the benefits of apprenticeships and open up previously closed careers to alternative routes. No longer just something for manual workers, there are now a wide range of apprenticeships on offer – so before opting for university, why not check and see if your chosen career is available as an apprenticeship?
To apply for an apprenticeship you must be over 16 and not in full-time education. In many ways an apprenticeship works just like a regular job – you will get paid as you learn your skills in a real working environment for at least 30 hours per week. Apprenticeships are split into intermediate, advanced, and higher levels depending on your current qualifications and last a minimum of 12 months – although some may last as long as four years. When it comes to earnings, there is an apprenticeship minimum wage, but many providers pay above this amount in order to attract and retain the brightest apprentices.
Once you complete your apprenticeship you will gain a qualification that you can take with you wherever you go to prove your skills, although many apprentices end up working with the company that trained them. This is perhaps unsurprising given the investment that has been made in them by the employer (apprentices don’t pay for their own tuition).
If you want to avoid debt, get your career started, gain a qualification and learn real skills on the job, then an apprenticeship could well be the perfect fit for you and your career. With research showing that 51% of young people disagree that graduates are more likely to gain quick career success when compared to apprentices, it seems that attitudes are changing. There are a lot of benefits to taking the apprenticeship route into work – so why not see how it could fit into your career goals?