Whilst universities are great, one of the downsides to fresh graduates entering the workplace is the lack of experience they have when applying for new opportunities. More employers are now looking for the whole package from their applicants in terms of experience, relevant skills and top-notch qualifications. Conversely, with the costs involved in going to university more people are looking for alternative ways of gaining respected qualifications without breaking the bank. In contrast to university, apprenticeships can provide the education, salary and work experience that degree courses lack. In this article, we look at some of the great advantages that apprenticeships hold and why you should consider them as an alternative to university.
Costs and expenses
One of the major downsides of doing a degree are the fees and living expenses involved. With annual fees in England and Wales at £9,250 and overall student debt levels not uncommonly reaching up to £50,000 for some students, an obvious appeal for apprentices is the absence of any upfront fees or student debt. Apprentices are not expected to pay any fees towards their apprenticeship, even if you’re completing a degree apprenticeship which leads to the awarding of a university degree!
Earning a wage
It gets said again and again, but one of the great things about being an apprentice is the opportunity to earn a real wage or salary, something which being a student at university does not allow for on a degree. Of course, you could study for a degree and earn money through a part-time job, but wouldn’t you rather be able to gain a wage or salary as a part of your qualification? The exact amount you would normally earn as an apprentice can vary depending on what qualification level you’re studying for as well as the industry or sector. Some people on degree apprenticeships can earn as much as £18,000 a year whilst gaining a university-level degree at the end of it!
Length of time
The amount of time it takes to complete a degree versus an apprenticeship might be another appealing factor. An undergraduate degree normally takes three years to complete in the UK, with four if you complete a foundation year beforehand or a masters’ degree afterwards. Apprenticeships can take at least a year, although in many cases they only need to last 18 months or two years. This might appeal to people who would rather not commit to a full three-year course but rather a training experience that takes less time to complete.
Acquire relevant skills
Employers nowadays want their employees to be skilled in a variety of different areas. If you’re working as a hairdresser for example, you’ll also be expected to have developed good customer service skills. In other jobs like business administration, you’ll be expected to have developed numerous IT skills in using software such as Microsoft Office. As an apprentice you’ll be learning the most relevant skills in your field during your apprenticeship, so you can be confident of having the most relevant skills when you finish.
Start at a level you feel comfortable with
An undergraduate degree is a big commitment for anyone, not least because of the level of difficulty involved in studying for an advanced qualification for three years. Of course, studying for an apprenticeship can be challenging as well, but as an apprentice you don’t have to start out with a higher-level qualification in your chosen field. Apprenticeships can be completed at Levels 2 and 3 on the UK’s National Qualification Framework, which are equivalent to GCSEs and A-levels. This means that you can start from an intermediate level with an apprenticeship first, which might be less daunting for those that don’t want all the hassle of studying for a higher-level qualification.
The great thing about apprenticeships is that you can even be an apprentice and gain a degree! Since their launch a few years ago degree apprenticeships have proved immensely popular with both apprentices and employers alike. As a degree apprentice you’ll spend part of your time learning at university whilst spending most of your time learning on the job whilst earning a salary. There are often no tuition fees to pay as this is taken care of by the employer, whilst the degree you gain at the end is exactly the same as any other. Why not get a degree without the student debt but with the salary and work experience?
Clearer progression routes
When you’ve finished a degree, it can be less than obvious as to what to do next. Unless you’ve done an occupationally specific course such as Law or Accountancy, many people can be left unsure of what options they have with their degree when they finish, especially if it’s in a broad-based subject such as English or Geography. With an apprenticeship, you have a much clearer idea of what stepping stones are available to you next, not least as you’ll already have worked with an employer who may be willing to promote you once you’ve gained your qualification.
Stand out from the crowd
Completing an apprenticeship means that you’ve not only gained plenty of great work experience which an undergraduate doesn’t necessarily have, but that you’ve shown you’re willing to take a different path from everyone else. You’ve not allowed yourself to be pressured into applying for a degree course like everyone else when you’ve finished school but have gone your own separate way and pursued the career you want. As an apprentice you’ll have put yourself ahead of many graduates by being able to have a recognised qualification, excellent work experience and a lot of money saved by not having to pay more than £9,000 a year. Who wouldn’t want to have those advantages?