In the past, apprenticeships were not widely spoken of.

Sadly cast aside as a lesser route to a career, they were deemed to be an option considered only by those not academically able to pursue further academic study after finishing school.

Not any more.

Since the recession in 2011, there has been a lack of graduate jobs and an astronomical increase in university tuition fees, which means demand for apprenticeships has risen dramatically.

If you’re not sure university is the right step for you, or don’t know what you want to do after your GCSEs, here’s eight reasons why you might want to consider applying for an Apprenticeship.

#1 Arm yourself with experience

An apprenticeship allows you to gain valuable experience within a particular industry, which looks great on your CV when you have finished your training.

Employers tend to favour candidates with a year or two of experience, as well as qualifications.

This means you’ll be a strong competitor when you start the job-hunting process, and you may even find your current employer is willing to offer you a permanent position.

#2 Earn while you learn

Start building up your savings while you learn. Whether it’s a house, car, holiday or new computer, apprenticeships can help you get money in the kitty.

You’ll also feel more stable and secure knowing there will be a pay cheque waiting for you at the end of each week or month.

The current national minimum wage for apprentices under 19 is currently £3.30 an hour, although many firms pay more than this.

#3 Gain a new qualification

Add another qualification to your CV when you complete your apprenticeship.

As well as lots of relevant experience, employers will see that you have the drive and determination to complete your training and gain an award.

Again, this will put you in a strong position when you start looking for a full-time job.

With a wide range of apprenticeships now available, there is something suitable for all career aspirations.

#4 Improve your prospects

You don’t have to find a job as soon as you’ve completed your apprenticeship - while many people do, it can also pave the way to other opportunities.

Many apprentices work toward a BETEC or NVQ qualification, and depending on which level you start at, you can progress to higher levels, e.g. an Advanced Apprenticeship or NVQ Level 4.

Want to study for a degree? Higher education institutions will consider these qualifications should you wish to attend university later on.

If you fancy being your own boss, the skills and knowledge gained from an Apprenticeship could also help you set up your own business.

#5 Broaden your skill set

Pick up new skills and develop existing ones.

Companies value communication, numeracy, teamwork and IT skills. The more you have to offer, the more you will appeal to prospective employers.

An apprenticeship means you can talk about many examples of how you’ve used these skills firsthand in the workplace.

#6 Stay ahead of graduates

Those leaving university often suffer from lack of solid work experience in the field they wish to pursue.

With an apprenticeship under your belt, you’ll have between 1 and 2 years of experience to flaunt, automatically giving you a headstart in the job hunting stakes.

You’ll probably also have made some good contacts at your employer’s company. Remember the saying ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know”?

This is particularly true when it comes to jobs, so make use of your networks to find out about upcoming opportunities. If you can get a foot in the door before a job has even been advertised, then great!

#7 Leave without any debt

Unlike a university course, you can complete your apprenticeship without the worry of paying of thousands of pounds of debt afterwards.

Instead of paying tuition fees, living costs and other expenses associated with a university course, your employer will be paying you to gain a nationally recognised qualification (so a win-win situation all round!).

This means you can save some of the money you earn for a house/flat deposit, car, holiday or anything else you would like.

#8 Make new contacts

Being involved with a particular business on a daily basis means you will meet lots of new people, and since you will normally be there for a minimum of 2 years, there will be plenty of time to build your network of contacts.

If you create a good name and reputation for yourself, then these professionals may help you further your career later on. A network is a fantastic asset to have, and you never know when you might need them for advice, mentoring or job opportunities.

If you decide to apply for an apprenticeship this year, then best of luck with your application!

We have a dedicated Apprenticeships area which tells you about what's involved in Apprenticeships, what to expect in an interview, and more.

Have you recently applied for an Apprenticeship or are currently studying for one? We’d love to hear from you! So please pop your comments below.