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Articles > Student Life June, 12, 2016

What You Need To Know About Apprenticeships

Loren Astbury
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Most schools and colleges seem to avoid talking about the apprenticeship route, like it’s a forbidden subject. Their main focus is always on university, and if you feel like that’s not the route for you it can be a very stressful situation to be in. So as someone that’s completed an apprenticeship, I’m here to tell you the advantages of them and everything else you need to know . . .

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Photo by Toby Jagmohan

One common misconception about apprenticeships is that they’re just for hands-on jobs, like hairdressing or plumbing. This is not the case at all. I took an apprenticeship in IT Support and I have friends who’ve completed apprenticeships in Administration, Marketing, Graphic Design, and many other areas. Apprenticeships are a way for young people aged 16-24 to get their foot in the door of their chosen career, learn vital skills and earn money whilst gaining experience in the job role.

When looking for the right apprenticeship for me, I used the government’s website, where I could search and apply for hundreds of apprenticeships. There are also many independent companies that specialise in providing apprenticeships for specific jobs.

You don’t even need to look in your local area; if you’re up for a commute they’re available all over the UK. On my course, learners who were local to the training academy were required to attend lessons at the training center. I was classed as a distance learner, however, as my training provider was based in a different town to my workplace, so I had remote support and weekly phone calls with my tutor while I was at work.

My course was assessed through a mixture of exams and written essays—a nice balance compared to a lot of subjects at school. However, some apprenticeships are purely coursework, so you can chose one that suits how you work best. I was also lucky in that my employer gave me time to revise and complete my assignments during the working day; it made the work feel less like homework, and I had more free time at night!

There are multiple advantages to apprenticeships:

1. You get an income – Depending on your apprenticeship, you could earn anything from £6,000 – £18,000 per year. Compared to the high cost of going to uni, it’s like being paid to learn. Who wouldn’t like that?! Apprenticeships even provide their own version of a student discount card so apprentices can still make the most of the same discounts as university students.

2. You gain qualifications and experience – If you are coming out of secondary school or college and go into an apprenticeship you will probably be working towards a Level 3 qualification (similar to A Levels).  These qualifications will shine on your CV, especially if they are really specific to your chosen career. Experience is everything these days, and an apprenticeship guarantees a few years of it without having to go around begging companies for opportunities.

3. You learn new skills – You learn not only from the in-house support of your manager and the work set by your apprenticeship training provider, but also from workshops and conferences; one of my favourite workshops was a tour of Microsoft where we were given talks on their products. This all helps you build a repertoire of transferable skills you can brag about on your CV and utilise in any future job.

4. Free training materials – These are provided by the training companies, so there is no need to buy expensive textbooks or software on your part.

5. You gain more independence and confidence – An apprenticeship gives you the chance to explore the work environment. Compared to school, I found that as an apprentice I was treated with more respect and like an adult. There are so many differences between school and apprenticeships, even the freedom of being able to pop out to use the bathroom without asking for permission was a massive plus!

6. It could lead to a full-time job – When my apprenticeship came to an end and I gained my qualifications, my manager decided to keep me on full time. My pay increased, and I was able to support myself moving in with my fiancé.

At the end of the day, everyone needs to start somewhere. Apprenticeships offer the opportunity to earn an income whilst gaining skills and experience in a specific job role. If you’re unsure about the financial commitment of university, and the uncertainty of a job at the end of it, I would highly recommend that an apprenticeship is something for you to look into.


For more advice and posts on lifestyle check out Loren’s blog!

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  1. Gaurav Jassal

    It also depends on what career you would want to take, getting a degree would open doors to higher paid careers, whereas most apprenticeships pay an average salary. However, there are many upcoming competitive apprenticeships out there, most famously is the Advanced Apprenticeship at Jaguar Land Rover, a team of apprentices from there came to our school and revealed that they were able to save up enough to buy themselves a car and house each. This is definitely a better and less financially risky way of getting a foot on your chosen career path as opposed to the insane pricing of getting a degree at university.