Earlier this month, apprentices, employers, and learning providers were celebrating the UK’s 14th annual National Apprenticeship Week. This was an opportunity to celebrate apprenticeships and showcase how they have benefitted employers and supported people of various ages and backgrounds to become more confident, skilled, and work ready.
I went to a grammar school and usually the next step after A Levels is going to university. However, I was not the type of person who knew exactly what they wanted to do from a young age. I didn’t have a specific career in mind, so I wanted to explore my options before making any life-changing decisions. I applied for work experience at Walsall Council and ended up in the Community Cohesion and Equalities Team. After a few months, they advertised an apprenticeship vacancy in the team for a Level 3 Business Administration Apprentice. I applied, got through to the interview stage, and was successful in securing the position. I’ve now progressed onto a Level 4 Project Management Apprenticeship and I’m currently working on a Central Government funded pilot project around community cohesion and integration. My role involves managing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion projects which support underrepresented group, such as women, ex-offenders, and ethnic minority communities, into employment.
Most of my family went to university, but I’m the first person to do an apprenticeship so it’s been a learning curve. However, as a result of my apprenticeship, my confidence, skills and knowledge have grown, and the work is rewarding as it positively impacts local people. I’ve also had the opportunity to join the Young Apprenticeship Ambassador Network (YAAN), a national network of current and past apprentices who share their apprenticeship story to inspire others and the Association of Apprentices, a new membership organisation for apprentices that will provide support, information, guidance and social opportunities for apprentices.
Apprenticeships often get a bad reputation and there can be negative assumptions made about apprentices and why they chose to do an apprenticeship rather than taking the traditional route of going to university.
‘Apprenticeships are only for young people’ – Apprenticeships are open to anyone who is 16 years old and above. There is no upper age limit. The apprenticeship levy is used by employers to upskill their current staff as well as new apprentices, so you can be in a senior position and have the opportunity to undertake a degree apprenticeship.
‘Apprenticeships are for people who didn’t get into university’ – An apprenticeship is a brilliant opportunity for students who prefer a hands-on approach to learning and want to go straight into work and start earning. For most apprenticeships, you need a C grade average in your GCSEs. However, some more technical apprenticeships can require higher grades at A Level and GCSE and competition for these can be tough.
‘Apprenticeships are an easy option compared to university’ – An apprenticeship requires you to work a full time job, usually 37 hours a week, and also complete assignments, coursework, and exams to qualify. There are so many demands on your time whilst doing an apprenticeship and time management is key. Apprenticeships are definitely not an easy option.
‘An apprenticeship is not a proper job’ – Apprentices are given real responsibility. There’s a myth that apprentices are lumped with tedious tasks like making tea. Apprentices need to cover a wide range of tasks in order to successfully complete their apprenticeship. Their employer is required to give apprentices practical and relevant work that supports their professional development. It would not make sense for an employer to make a financial investment to take on an apprentice and then give tasks with little value to the business. Apprentices work alongside experienced professionals on projects that have a real impact.
What are the benefits of doing an apprenticeship?
- You get a recognised qualification
- First hand industry experience
- Opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals
- Earn a salary from day one
- Your qualification fees are paid by your employer which means no debt
- Paid annual leave
- Time during work hours to complete your qualification
- 1-to-1 support from your assessor, line manager and team
- Improves your employability
Doing an apprenticeship is the best decision I have ever made. Having that real life work experience, as well as a qualification, are invaluable. However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to guaranteeing your dream career. What’s important is thoroughly researching and considering all your options and weighing the pros and cons. It’s a big decision so don’t make it lightly. Also, don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd and forge your own path. Who knows, you may decide that an apprenticeship is the best choice for you.