When going through secondary school and sixth form/college, knowing what you want to do for a career is an extremely difficult decision; especially when all your friends already know what they want to do and the pressure hits. Many sixth forms and colleges also try to encourage you to go to university, which of course is a great experience, but is it really for you? Some students aren’t convinced about what they want to study, and others don’t know about many of the job opportunities out there; that’s where apprenticeships can be an ideal solution.
What is an apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is an alternative route to university and gives you a sharp insight into what the working life is like and also what some of your daily tasks would include in your chosen job. The great thing about apprenticeships is the wide range of available programmes, so there is something for everyone no matter what your interests are. What’s more, it’s also a great opportunity to earn while you learn! Most employers take pride in providing you with training and support and therefore, it’s likely that you will be offered a job within your company at the end of your apprenticeship – a double bonus!
There are huge varieties of apprenticeships available, so your options are limitless! The different levels of apprenticeships are generally equivalent to educational qualifications, for example:
- Level 1 & 2 – intermediate – equivalent to a GCSE
- Level 3 – advanced – equivalent to an A-Level
- Level 4, 5 & 6 – higher – foundation degree and above
- Level 7 – Degree – Bachelor’s or Master’s degree
Another massive benefit is that most apprenticeships offer a ‘functional skills’ option which enables you to gain further qualifications in maths, English and/or ICT whilst completing your course. You can receive one-to-one training on each of the above topics before taking an exam, and it’s another opportunity to add to your CV and certificate portfolio.
Why choose an apprenticeship?
- Experience from the start
In today’s society, there is an increasing number of students who are going to university and graduating with a first degree but are still struggling to find employment or establish a career. This is because many students take the same training courses and adopt the university culture. When it comes to a job interview, for example, these students may not have the experience required to succeed. An apprenticeship, on the other hand, will get you prepared for the working world at an early age and help you recognise and understand what employers are looking for. Consequently, you will stand out and have lots of experience under your belt when it comes to interviews and promotional opportunities.
- Dedicated support
Throughout your apprenticeship, you’ll have a dedicated trainer who will assist with all your units and/or exams, settling into your new workplace and any other queries you may have. Your trainer will guide you, provide knowledge and support and will work closely with your manager at your workplace to ensure everything is progressing as expected. This is also a great opportunity to work with a professional in your industry and gain relevant training. If you choose to take the functional skills exams whilst completing your apprenticeship, you’ll be entitled to dedicated revision sessions (either one-to-one or with your peers) and you can use this time to practise past papers, have personal study time or generally do what is necessary to ace your test!
- Develop your skills & confidence
As you’ll be gaining real-life experience, you’ll naturally develop your skills and confidence. As well as constant training from your apprenticeship provider, you’ll also foster some of the other necessary skills needed to strive in the workplace and your industry such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, presentations and more. As you gain more responsibility in your role at work, you’ll begin to see how much progress you have made throughout your course and what areas of your self-development you’d like to improve for a future career.
- Receive well-recognised qualifications
Many students aren’t aware that the qualifications obtained from an apprenticeship are widely recognised by employers and look great on a CV! The qualifications earned at the different levels of apprenticeships are equivalent to traditional qualifications, including university and master’s degrees. Apprenticeship range from Level 1 to Level 7, so be sure to research which apprenticeship you would like to enrol in and what the course entails off before you do. Remember, you can always progress from one apprenticeship to another, so no need to worry about making the wrong decision.
- Earn while you learn
A phrase you will probably come across often when researching apprenticeships. Why? Because that means no tuition fees, no student loans and hopefully no debt! You will be paid a salary from your employer, and some companies tend to pay the cost of your transport per month. Digital Skills Solutions, for example, provides apprentices with an NUS card at no cost, which offers a variety of discounts to support apprentices in their journey, as well as an Oyster card. Additionally, they pay for the affiliation to the relevant professional body.
What can you expect from your apprenticeship?
As mentioned above, there are hundreds of apprenticeships available across lots of different industries, but it’s important to do your research and choose the right apprenticeship for you. Here are some of the key features you should expect from your apprenticeship:
- The same rights as an employee
Apprentices are classed as employees which means you should be entitled to a variety of the worker’s statutory rights including at least 20 days holiday, rest breaks, a contract of employment, health and safety protection and so on.
- At least the minimum wage
Salaries are £3.90 for apprentices aged 16-19 and other apprentices are entitled to the national minimum wage for their age. It is important that you do the research to find a training provider that will find the best salary for you.
The type of apprenticeship and the industry you would like to train in is completely your decision. Choose which apprenticeship is best for you and carry out lots of research before making your choice.
Your apprenticeship provider should be available for support whenever you need them. You will be allocated a dedicated one-to-one trainer who will be available to provide support, knowledge, and advice for inside and outside of your role. Regular feedback sessions should be provided to monitor progression and set targets of what you want to achieve.
You can get out of your apprenticeship what you want to achieve. Your commitment levels are the key to the success and completion of your apprenticeship. Some apprenticeships can take up to 18 months to complete and you will be expected to work around 30 hours a week, so it’s important to consider what is expected of you before you enrol. You will have at least one day a week or equivalent to spend on your learning and training.
So, it’s time to get researching and look into what an apprenticeship could do for you. Remember, whilst university may be a great experience and just because the ideal course is available for your best friend, that doesn’t mean it’s the right path for you. Consider what subjects you enjoy studying, what hobbies you’re good at and what industries interest you the most and then take it from there.
Written by Demi Newlands
Digital Marketing Executive Student at Digital Skills Solutions 2017 – 18
Currently working at Quils Group as Digital Marketing Executive
Click here to connect with Demi on LinkedIn!