Why you should be considering an apprenticeship as your next step after leaving school
So you have just completed your GCSEs… Or your A-Levels… Or your btec… Or degree… Or you are at any stage in your life where you feel like you want a change in direction or career? I’m sure that you have considered a lot of different options depending on what level you are at and your interests. But have you properly given a thought to your next step after leaving school? Or what an apprenticeship could do for you?
Straight after finishing A-Levels I admit that I hadn’t even taken a second glance at apprenticeships. I assumed that I was just going to take the university route, as with my strengths at school I was mostly advised that this was the usual path to take. At school, apprenticeships were usually promoted to me as being for those wishing to enter a trade, or engineering or health and beauty and as none of these were my strengths or interests, I didn’t properly review my options. Had I stopped being so narrow-minded and taken some time to do my own research outside of school on what was available in the world of apprenticeships, I could have saved myself from working a lot of boring part-time jobs to save money to go to University. However, I did end up at University on a course that I was only half-sure that I wanted to do and mostly because I wasn’t sure what else I should do! After three months of University I realised that it was not for me. I wasn’t struggling, or unable to keep up, I just couldn’t see how what I was learning in lectures was going to help me in a practical environment in the future. I’m not knocking University by any means, the way people learn and thrive is completely subjective. For me personally, University was not the best learning environment.
I am writing this post to let you know that if you, like me, grow and develop best through putting what you learn into practice and spending time working to enhance your skills, as opposed to theory based work where you rely on somebody just telling you how to do something from a classroom, then you should definitely take some time to consider the many benefits that apprenticeships can offer you.
Now that my own personal spiel about why I think apprenticeships are great is out of the way, I can give you a breakdown of what an apprenticeship entails and then some facts about the benefits of apprenticeships and you can make an informed decision about whether it sounds to be the right decision for you.
So what exactly does an apprenticeship involve?
An apprenticeship involves splitting time between training at a facility or college and being in an actual workplace. Generally, this will be a split of four days in your workplace and then just one day per week in the classroom learning from a coach or teacher. However this differs between courses so you will need to check this with the course you are interested in. There will usually be some form of assessment to undertake and then at the end you will receive a qualification at a particular level depending on what apprenticeship you have taken.
1 – Eases you into the world of work.
Undertaking an apprenticeship can sound as though it could be a daunting experience, particularly if all you have known prior to this was a school or college environment. However with an apprenticeship you will be eased into the workplace with regular visits from your coach to see how you are getting on and will help with any queries or issues you may have. Your workplace will also be fully understanding of the fact that you are an apprentice and as such not have much or any exposure to the kind of work that you are doing, and as a result will not expect ground breaking results from you from day one. Instead you will be walked through all processes and new skills so that you feel comfortable in your role with them. This is a fantastic way to introduce you to the world of work and is the complete opposite of being thrown into the deep end as some might expect!
2 – Building your skillset in the industry.
The benefit of choosing to do an apprenticeship in your chosen field, over a college or university course, is that you will put into practice in real time what you have learnt in the classroom. They say that ‘practice makes perfect’ and in the case of apprenticeships you will be able to take what you have learned on your day in the classroom and the next day even, start to put into practice the new skill and through repeating this process build up your skill set hugely.
3 – The range of apprenticeships available.
Possibly the greatest thing about apprenticeships is the wide range that are available. There is an enormous number of apprenticeships available, whether you are interested in Trades (e.g. construction, plumbing, brick laying) or Beauty (e.g. hairdressing, beauty therapy, barbering, fashion and textiles) or Business related industries (e.g. accountancy, business administration, team leadership, digital marketing) or more Creative Industries (e.g. graphic design, creative and digital media) or Agricultural/Animal related (e.g. Agriculture, horticulture, veterinary nursing) or Engineering/Technology/Manufacturing (e.g. Engineering Construction, Marine Technology, Metal processing) or… you get the idea… and this is just to name a small percentage! Almost any kind of career that you are interested in, there is most probably an apprenticeship for or closely related to it. Just take a look at this list A-Z apprenticeships list.
4 – Earn whilst you learn and…student discount?!
Perhaps one of the most widely talked about benefits of apprenticeships is your ability to earn and learn. Yes that’s right, you will absolutely get paid whilst you are doing an apprenticeship. The minimum apprentice wage is £3.90 per hour, but a great deal of employers will pay more than this to their apprentices. Whilst you may be thinking that £3.90 is a low wage, the thing to remember is that you are also gaining a qualification at the end of the apprenticeship, which is your ticket to earning a higher wage than with no qualification, so it is well worth thinking about this in the longer term. The other factor to consider here is that with gaining other types of qualifications such as a university degree, you have to pay in order to get the degree which means getting a student loan. An apprenticeship is a way of gaining a qualification without the student debt at the end of the course. You will also be paid for your time in the classroom and be entitled to paid holidays and other company benefits just as other members of the workforce. Another added bonus of apprenticeships is that you are still technically a student and are therefore eligible for an NUS card– giving you access to a huge range of discounts!
5- You do not have to have a whole load of prior qualifications to be eligible.
It is a common misconception that if you do not have maths, ICT and English at GCSE level then you are not able to take an apprenticeship. Whilst preferable to have these qualifications already, if you do not, then your training provider will help you to gain functional skills certificates that employers will accept so that you can complete the apprenticeship.
6- There are a number of different levels of apprenticeships.
It doesn’t matter where in your career you are, there will most likely be an apprenticeship level for you. Apprenticeships go right from Level 2 to Level 7. An intermediate or level 2 apprenticeship is the equivalent to GCSE standard of qualification, an advanced or level 3 apprenticeship is the equivalent to A-level standard of qualification, a higher or level 4 or 5 apprenticeship is equivalent to a foundation degree and finally a degree or level 6-7 apprenticeship is equivalent to a bachelor’s or master’s degree depending on the course. So there will be a level suitable for you to choose from that will help develop your skills, allowing you to get onto the career path of your choosing.
This list of reasons for choosing an apprenticeship are just some of the best benefits, I could list even more about the increase in personal development, the massive boost in confidence it gives you, the people you will meet on the course and in the workplace too, but this post would just become too long to read.
The number one thing that I would like to reiterate and that you should take away from this post is how important it is to do what is right for you. If classroom learning is how you develop and grow and is your preferred method, then perhaps an apprenticeship is not for you. But I would urge you to at the very least explore the different apprenticeship opportunities out there and keep an open mind, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. It is very easy to be swayed by your teachers, parents or friends into following a particular path, but ultimately only you know what works best for you. You are likely to be fed a number of negative myths about apprenticeships – so you should read our blog on stigmas surrounding apprenticeships. So research some apprenticeships here Institute of Apprenticeships or A-Z of available apprenticeships , check us out on Social Media and feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about apprenticeships.