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Dispelling the myths about apprenticeships

Do you have the wrong idea about apprenticeships? Apprenticeships are a brilliant option for 16-24 year olds who want to get paid while they study, receive on the job training in a huge range of industries and gain a nationally recognised qualification equivalent to either GCSE’s, A Levels or a university degree. So, let’s get a few things straightened out.

Myth: Apprenticeships are only for manual jobs like construction and plumbing

There is a common misconception that apprenticeships are only for practical ‘blue collar’ industries, however a recent House of Commons report showed that the sectors with the most apprenticeship starts in 2014/15 were Business, Administration and Law; Health, Public Services and Care; and Retail and Commercial Enterprise. Whilst the top ten apprenticeship industries in the UK do include construction, they also include Engineering, Travel and Tourism, Education, Agriculture, the Arts, Media and Publishing. You can do an apprenticeship in almost anything, so explore the possibilities now.

Myth: University graduates have better job prospects

Not only do some apprenticeships offer the same qualifications as universities – many apprenticeship schemes offer degrees and foundation degrees depending on what level you choose – but apprentices are likely to leave education with far more work experience than university graduates. This can be a huge advantage, as employers are looking for a well-rounded mixture of subject knowledge as well as soft skills such as communication, time-keeping, decision making, team work and priority management, which apprentices hone through entering the world of work from the very beginning of their course. Yes, graduates generally have a higher average starting wage, but this can be off-set by paying back student loans and other debt, whereas apprentices start to earn immediately, and their wages generally increase as their experience and expertise do.

Myth: An apprenticeship doesn’t pay as much as a full-time job

Apprentices are paid at least the Apprenticeship national minimum wage for their age, but employers often pay more. Apprentices also get paid for the time they spend studying in the classroom as well as hours worked. As of January 2016, the national minimum wage for apprentices who are aged 16-18, or any apprentice in their first year of study, is £3.30. For any other apprentices aged 18-20, the minimum is £5.30 and for those aged 21 or over, it’s £6.70. So say you’re getting paid the minimum wage possible for an apprentice and work 30 hours a week, you’ll still get paid over £90 a week. Apprentices over 21 working the same hours can get paid £200 a week. What’s more, apprentices are essentially being paid to get a qualification. It’s also easier for apprentices to live at home, cutting down on living expenses.

Myth: An apprenticeship doesn’t give you a proper qualification

Depending on which level of apprenticeship you are studying, you can get any number of nationally recognised qualifications. In England, for instance, an intermediate apprenticeship gives you the equivalent of 5 GCSEs, and an advanced apprenticeship is equal to 2 A-Levels. Higher apprenticeships are similar to university-level study, with the possibility of gaining an NVQ Level 4, BTEC Higher National Certificate (HNC), a Higher National Diploma (HND) or a foundation degree. The qualifications are typically more vocational than university, but no less credible.

Find out more about the qualifications available through an apprenticeship

Myth: Apprenticeships are for less-able students

Apprenticeships are certainly not just for students who don’t get the grades for university, they’re simply an alternative because after all, university isn’t for everyone. Some students feel ready to start working on their careers straight away and no longer want to learn solely in a classroom, others want to start earning straight away, or perhaps have personal circumstances which prevent them from going to university. Apprenticeships provide a practical, more cost-effective and versatile alternative to university, and are no means there to play second-fiddle.

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