Alternative Apprenticeships

If you’ve read any of our guides to the benefits of doing an apprenticeship, no doubt you’ll have discovered that they are really worth considering if you are young and are serious about your career. With their emphasis on giving people practical training to equip them with the skills and knowledge they need for that profession, apprenticeships are ideal for those who prefer to learn in a more practical way, rather than being confined to a classroom all day or learning large quantities of information that seemingly have no relevance to what you want to do.

An Extra Reason to Consider an Apprenticeship

The fact that you get paid to do them rather than having to shell out for tuition fees and take out a student loan also makes apprenticeships a very attractive choice.

So attractive, in fact, that for many young people the biggest problem with an apprenticeship is actually managing to find one in your area within the industry you want to be involved in. Yes, competition for apprenticeships can be fierce. And while you do get paid as an apprentice, in practice the pay level for the majority of apprenticeships is too low for people to be able to move away from the family home to start one, unless they’re lucky enough to have access to a financial leg-up from somewhere else.

However, do not despair if after searching for apprenticeship vacancies where you live you either draw a blank or not do not get any positive responses to your applications. Because although apprenticeships are a fantastic form of vocational training, they’re by no means the only one.

Here are some of the other avenues that you could try if Apprenticeship Avenue turned out to be a dead end for you, or just if there is some aspect of your local apprenticeship schemes doesn’t seem to suit what you’re looking for.


As our article on how apprenticeships work makes clear, at the core of many apprenticeships–and especially the higher and advanced ones–is a study component that you follow at a local college. In many cases, this qualification will be a BTEC qualification that corresponds to the level of the apprenticeship you are taking. BTECs cover a very broad range of vocational sectors, and also span a very large range of levels of complexity, going all the way up to the level of Higher National Diploma. If you haven’t managed to get onto an apprenticeship, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you taking the BTEC qualification that you would have taken on that apprenticeship. You could either take it full time, in which case having that qualification will make you much more attractive to employers in that sector once you have the qualification; or you could combine part-time study with a part-time job within your chosen field. In fact, by combining a BTEC with relevant work, in many ways you are working and learning much in the same way as you would were you to be actually taking an apprenticeship. Indeed, with a little gentle persuasion your employer might be tempted to make things official and sign you and himself up for the scheme.

Vocational Qualifications

And if you can’t find a BTEC qualification that suits what you want to do, don’t panic. There are plenty of other vocational qualification options out there, including City & Guild qualifications (which like BTECs span a wide range of study levels) and the 14-19 Diploma,. And if your GCSE results preclude you from more advanced-level vocational qualifications, starting out by taking a Foundation Learning Programme before then moving on to one of the other qualifications. The only thing to bear in mind with these other options is that if you would like to keep your options open for further study the BTEC is probably your best bet as it is more widely accepted by universities.

Which of these options you take will probably be determined by what is available at your local college. So check out their website and see what’s available.

School-Leaver Schemes and Openings

Apprenticeships are also far from being the only option for people who want their learning to be focused predominantly in the workplace rather than the classroom. Although it tends to be schemes for university graduates that get the most attention in the media, there are in fact plenty of career opportunities out there to be had for people who either don’t have a degree or can’t find an apprenticeship. Indeed, some of them are effectively the same as graduate-level openings, meaning you’ll end up with the same healthy pay packet without seeing much of it go out on re-paying tuition fees and student loans!

For many employers, it’s not the fact that a young person actually has a degree that is important, but rather whether or not they are of what they tend to call ‘graduate calibre’. Until the 1970s or so, it tended to be only a small minority of people who went to university. This meant that in practice many people who worked in what are now regarded as ‘graduate’ professions–for example accountants–were in fact school-leavers who completed studies for their relevant qualifications while they worked in that field. In effect, then, they were doing an apprenticeship in all but name.

Perhaps as a result of the spiralling costs of higher education, school-leaver schemes seem to be making a comeback. Some of the world’s top accountancy firms now offer schemes just for school-leavers, which lead to them holding precisely the same qualifications as their graduate intake, and in other sectors such as recruitment consultancy going for graduate calibre rather than graduate has been a matter of routine for decades.

Openings for school-leavers that lead to qualification aren’t just restricted to professions such as accountancy, either. If you look hard enough you’ll find openings for school-leavers across a huge range of industries, especially from smaller, local businesses. Because ultimately a company’s hiring policy is decided by the management team, and if they value motivation and potential over pieces of paper that the applicants already hold, they’ll be just as keen to take on people who have yet to receive any vocational training as they will be people with fancy certificates. Again, very often employers value what you’re capable of achieving rather than what you have already achieved.