Why take an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are championed by the press as a more practical alternative to university and from the point of view of a school leaver, apprenticeships do have some advantages compared with the other options available.

They are a great way to earn while you learn, get valuable job experience, and in some cases, avoid student loan debt - but are they for you?

Here’s some reasons why taking an apprenticeship might be the next step in your career path:

1. Experience and qualifications in one

One thing that often holds back new university graduates is not having the level of work experience required to work in their chosen field – this is something that usually has to be worked for in their own time, but with an apprenticeship, you're actually doing the job while you qualify!

This means that you are obtaining useful qualifications without missing out on work experience, potentially saving time in the long run.

Also, although employers aren't obliged to keep you on after your apprenticeship, you will have a good amount of experience working in the role and should a vacancy become available at the end of your apprenticeship.

You’ll also have lots of sector specific experience, and the qualifications to back that up – basically, it’s almost like having a foot in the door.

2. Earn while you learn

Earning while you qualify is another advantage that those choosing an apprenticeship can benefit from.

In the majority of cases, the training and assessment part of your apprenticeship will be government-funded and your employer will pay you an hourly wage for both time worked and time spent in classroom-based training.

This means that currently you can expect to earn at least the Apprentice National Minimum Wage of £6.40 an hour (as of April 2024) for all apprentices under 18 years old, and all other apprentices in their first year. This might not sound like a lot, but many employers pay more than this.

If you're 21 or over and have finished the first year of your apprenticeship, you should be entitled to the National Living Wage, which is currently £11.44 an hour.

3. Take the opportunity to retrain

Since August 2010, have been open to people of all ages. Before, only 16-24 year olds could apply for this qualification.

With an ever changing job market, the opportunity to train (or to re-train) can only ever be a good thing, but some would see this development as double-edged: The government have drawn attention to apprenticeships as a positive solution to youth unemployment, but only a relatively small percentage of new apprentices are under 25.

Are slightly older applicants who perhaps already have some post-secondary qualifications and work experience being given preference over school leavers?

It's worth pointing out that getting an apprenticeship place is a competitive business but with 200,550 new apprentices starting in 2023/24, up 2.5% on the previous academic year, things are looking really positive.

Obviously, the system isn't for everybody and it's worth checking out what other opportunities are available to you such as college, university and other on-the-job training.

4. There’s lots of programmes to choose from

If you are still thinking about what to do next, then you will be delighted to know that there are over 400 different apprenticeship options, across several sectors.

There’s also lots to think about when it comes to what level you study, with programmes available at Level 2, with the Intermediate Apprenticeship, right through to Level 6 or 7, with the Degree apprenticeship.

This mean's there is something for everyone, whatever your starting point!

5. Work pattern variety

Another benefit of apprenticeships, is that you get to have some variation in you work pattern.

This could be anything from a day a week away from work to study at a further education college or university, to a block placement of a month or 6 weeks at a specialised training centre.

6. Avoid student debt

Another massive benefit of apprenticeships, is that with the advent of Degree apprenticeships, you can obtain your degree qualification and avoid having to take on a large student debt, saving you potentially tens of thousands of pounds in the long term.

With this option, the company you undertake your degree apprenticeship with, will fund your tuition fees as well as pay you your salary.

This will also mean you don’t get to take out a maintenance loan from the Student Loan Company, but with a regular wage, your day to day living costs should be covered.

7. Gain transferable skills

Finally, if at the end of your apprenticeship, even if you don’t manage to secure employment at your apprenticeship organisation, you’ll be pleased to know that your CV will be boosted by lots of transferable skills, as well as the sought-after, and nationally recognised, qualifications you have obtained.

This means that at whatever stage of your career you are searching for a new role, you will be an attractive candidate with lots to offer.

If you're looking for a different way into your chosen career that will get you used to the environment you'll be working in and pay you to train, though, then it's definitely a good idea to look into what an apprenticeship could offer you.

Further information

For more tips and advice on applying for apprenticeships, please see: