Are apprenticeships worth it? 6 questions you’re secretly asking (and their myth-busting answers)

are apprenticeships worth it myths facts

This piece was written in partnership with Collab Group

Choosing between an apprenticeship and a degree? Both choices are valid, but read up on the facts behind these five apprenticeship myths before you make your big decision!

Deciding what to do after school or college is a BIG step so you need to make sure you have all the info you need. Here are five myths you might have heard about apprenticeships and why they are WRONG...

"Am I too good for an apprenticeship?"

If you've already got good grades or are expecting great exam results that's something you might be asking yourself, without being sure what the right answer is. And you might feel guilty about asking it, but you're secretly asking it anyway. It doesn't help that your parents are probably warning you that a degree is the only possible choice for top students. They're understandably concerned for your future, but they didn't have modern apprenticeships back in their day and won't know all the facts to back up their opinions.

Employers these days see an apprenticeship as a valuable way into a job, just like a degree. Both apprenticeships and degrees show you're willing to learn and work hard. Both result in qualifications.

Choosing between apprenticeships and a degree isn't just down to your education grades, either. There are different ways of learning. One is more academic, with book learning and a regular classroom environment. One is more hands-on, and learning through doing (though you'll still get structured training in an apprenticeship).

What do you want out of your working life? Which method of learning suits you best? These are more useful questions to ask than whether your grades exclude you from choosing to do an apprenticeship.

"Can you only get apprenticeships for physical 'dirty' work?"

Er... like what, being a chimney sweep? We live in modern high-tech times, with over 250 types of apprenticeship for nearly 1,500 different job roles. Visit the Find an Apprenticeship website and you'll find up to 25,000 apprenticeship opportunities listed online at any one time.

Whatever your field of interest is, there's an apprenticeship to match it. Fashion, food science, digital media, business and management... you name it, there's an employer keen to train you while paying you a salary.

Also, if you're tempted to look down on physical work? It's tough love time - get over yourself! Construction is vital to our industry, and architectural beauties like the Shard or Britain's switched-on futuristic smart cities couldn't be achieved without it. Lots of fascinating, well-paid, high-prestige jobs (like engineering) involving touching and moving things that aren't laptop buttons and, yes, may even involve even being outside. Be passionate about YOUR interests, but don't ever look down on someone else's. Peace out.

"Don't graduates get all the best jobs?"

DID YOU KNOW? Top employers retain around 91% of their apprentices. That means more than 9 out of every 10 apprentices is invited to stay and progress with the company.

With an apprenticeship you're getting a qualification while building incredibly valuable experience that's more precious than gold to employers. When uni graduates start hunting for their first job, you'll already have been in the workplace for a couple of years with lots of responsibilities and know-how.

On the one hand, yes, some roles and early career schemes are more likely to be offered to graduates. For example, you can't go on a graduate training scheme unless you've been to university. Management training schemes are more frequently offered to graduates. And some jobs are traditionally associated with degree-level learning. For example, you're potentially more likely to be hired for a legal role if you have a degree (although it's not essential. There are numerous law-related apprenticeships out there too. In fact, you can take on a solicitor apprenticeship if you are a school-leaver with A-levels or their equivalent).

However, let's put things in perspective:

Employers who value work experience will be thrilled by the CV of a qualified apprentice who has developed their skillset, knowledge, work experience and understanding of work culture.

Different levels of apprenticeship are available, right up to advanced level. At an advanced level you can be paid to train and work in a programme specifically geared to management positions.

"Apprentices earn less than graduates, don't they?"

No word of a lie - graduates do usually have a higher starting salary.

Then again, apprentices start earning much earlier than graduates do, getting a salary and work experience while graduates are still sitting in a classroom.

As an apprentice you have no student loan debts hanging over you, either.

Once you've completed your apprenticeship you'll be both qualified and experienced - after that, there's no reason why you shouldn't increase your responsibilities, salary and aim for promotion.

"Does an apprenticeship mean I'm not really qualified?"

Stop the presses - you get a nationally recognised, industry-standard qualification on completing your apprenticeship. The level of qualification you attain depends on the apprenticeship you have completed. Depending on which apprenticeship scheme you go for, you could end up with a Functional Skills qualification, a technical certificate like a BTEC Higher National Certificate (HNC) or a Higher National Diploma (HND).

As a guideline:

  • Intermediate apprenticeship qualification - equivalent to five GCSE passes (or their equivalent)
  • Advanced apprenticeship qualification - equivalent to two A-levels.
  • Higher apprenticeship - you could progress to a level 4 NVQ or higher, or a foundation degree
  • Degree apprenticeship - you get a full honours degree (either Bachelor's or Master's)

"Do I have to choose between an apprenticeship and a degree?"


Who's to say you can't do an apprenticeship and study for a degree at the same time?

The government has created degree apprenticeships in order to boost tech skills. Degree apprenticeships are available in a few different sectors including engineering, public relations, construction, science and the digital world.

How does it work? The cost of your degree is split between the government and your employer. You don't pay a thing. No student fees. No student debt. Nada. Zilch. You study for a bona fide degree for free. Because this is an apprenticeship scheme, you'll also be working for your employer, the degree apprenticeship provider, and earning a salary.

If you're interested in a science and technology career, a degree apprenticeship could be a great option for you.

How about an apprenticehip now, degree later?

There's nothing to stop you studying for a degree later down the line if you do an apprenticeship now. Degree courses can be quite flexible these days, and also feature distance learning so you can study online and fit your studies round your job.

When you're choosing between an apprenticeship and a degree, the most important thing is to get informed and have a good think about your choices. After that, it’s all up to you!

This piece was written in partnership with Collab Group

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