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Why take an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships have made it into the news recently for a whole variety of different reasons.

Last summer, they were being championed by the press as a more practical alternative to university and by the autumn, they were surrounded by controversy over the apparent exaggeration of official figures by an embarrassed government.

Where does that leave us now, though?

From the point of view of a school leaver, apprenticeships do have some advantages compared with the other options available.

For example, 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.

With an apprenticeship, though, you're actually doing the job while you qualify.

Although employers aren't obliged to keep you on after your apprenticeship, you will have a good amount of experience working in the role.

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.

From October 2015, the Apprentice National Minimum Wage is £3.30 an hour which doesn't sound like a lot, but many employers pay more than this.

If you're over 19 and have finished the first year of your apprenticeship, you should be entitled to National Minimum Wage, too.

According to the National Apprenticeship Service, the average weekly wage for an apprentice is £170 a week which is around £4.50 per hour.

Before the 1st of August 2010, government funded apprenticeships were limited to young persons between the ages of 16 and 24, but now are open to people of all ages.

With mass unemployment across the UK, 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 16% of new apprentices in 2011 were 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.

In November, The Independent quoted a spokesman from Network Rail as saying they had received over 8,000 applications in 2010 for just 200 apprenticeship places.

Figures like this make it seem nearly impossible to get onto an apprenticeship, but with 442,700 new apprentices starting in 2010 (163,000 more than in 2009 and a number on a par with that of university places available), 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.

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.

Online training resources such as the Help Training Courses website are a great place to start looking into what's available near you.

- Article by Pete McCulloch at HelpTrainingCourses.com