Why Consider An apprenticeship?

No matter who we are, at some point in our lives the time comes to think seriously about what we’d like to do to earn a living. Even if it is common for people to make career changes later in life, everyone must, at one moment or another, make a first career move.

For most people, this time tends to come in our latter years of school. For students in England, the end of GCSEs marks a point when they need to decide whether to continue studying full-time, or to move on to something else, such as some sort of training scheme or employment. Now that the government is phasing in increases in the age of compulsory education so that all young people will need to be in some form of training until the age of eighteen, now more than ever simply doing nothing is not an option for young people.

Of course, a fork in the road being travelled by young people where one route is marked ‘more education’ and the other ‘something else’ doesn’t just come along at the age of sixteen. A very large proportion of students to opt for further education following GCSEs. Of these, some will take vocational courses that will lead them onto a career path, while others take A Levels and go on to university.

However, for other people who stay in education after sixteen, university doesn’t seem to be the right fit, and nor do the subjects they’ve studied prepare them for the career they want. While it’s not fair that they’re back at square one–those years of education will undoubtedly boosted their skills and knowledge–they are nevertheless back at that fork in the road.

Finding yourself wrong-footed at this fork can be a stressful experience. On the one hand it’s difficult to find a satisfying job with good career prospects, but on the other the most well-known route to skilled work–university study–can be prohibitively expensive, and often does not in any case offer any solid, industry-recognised qualifications.

If this predicament is one that you find yourself in, then doing an apprenticeship could be the ideal choice for you. In many ways, apprenticeships are the best of both worlds; you get training, education and qualifications, but you complete them as part of your working life and consequently you get paid to get qualified.

The Modern Apprenticeship

Now, to many people the word ‘apprenticeship’ conjures up all sorts of quaint ideas of kids being forced into the world of work, where they spend years working under the stern and watchful eye of a master craftsman of some long-dead trade, earning just a pittance and a roof over their head for their troubles.

But this is a badly outdated vision of what modern apprenticeships are all about. In fact, they are simply a very innovative way of training people up to do skilled and technical jobs by getting them to combine doing aspects of that job in real life with simultaneously completing studies in it, with the end point being that the apprentice is considered qualified to practice that profession.

In many ways an apprenticeship is the perfect synthesis of two competing schools of thought, one of which states that people learn best by doing, the other of which argues you need to truly study and understand something before you can do it to the best of your abilities.

And this is an approach that can be applied to a very large number of sectors. As it stands there are over 150 types of apprenticeships you can do in the UK, ranging from agriculture to youth work and just about every employment sector you can think of in between from across the primary (farming), secondary (industry) and tertiary (services) sectors.

Career Routes You Hadn’t Thought of Before

People are often surprised to learn that many of the most important careers–the ones that keep the country running–use apprenticeships to train new recruits. Firefighters and non-commissioned police officers, for example, have apprenticeship routes, as do the vast majority of the key trades within fundamental sectors such as engineering and construction. And nowadays an increasing number of office-based positions are reached through completing an apprenticeship. In fact, apprenticeships are now so popular with employers that if you think of a large company operating in Britain and it’s more than likely that they run several different apprenticeship schemes.

Because apprenticeships cover such a large range of employment sectors, each one is different and tailored to fit the demands of that particular profession. However, the majority of apprenticeships share the common feature of the majority of the apprentice’s time being spent working within the company to which they are apprenticed, being taught on the job by qualified individuals in their field, with this training being supplemented by a day or two per week at a college, working towards a relevant qualification for that profession, such as an NVQ or a BTEC. Depending on the complexity of the apprenticeship, it is often the case that apprentices complete more than one college course.

Another factor that all apprenticeships have in common is that all apprentices get paid. The average starting wage is currently £170 per week, though this can rise to over £400 per week depending on how advanced the apprenticeship is or the specific area of work.

A Respected Form of Training

Not that apprentices necessarily have to apply for jobs once their apprenticeships end, however. For in many cases, apprentices who show commitment, drive and skill are snapped up by the companies and organisations where they completed their apprenticeship. So there’s every chance that your apprenticeship can lead to a longer-term position without you even needing to draw up another CV!

What all apprenticeships also have in common is that they represent the most solid and well-respected form of vocational training out there. As we pointed out earlier, some people are very much of the opinion that people can only really learn while on the job, while others think that you need classroom-based learning. With an apprenticeship, you get both, and this benefit stays with you throughout your career when it comes to applying for jobs. Put simply, an employer knows with a former apprentice that they are hiring someone who has had rigorous training, rather than someone who either performed well in the classroom but lacks the practical experience to do the job or a person whose knowledge of the profession hasn’t been formally tested.