How can we overcome the stigma of apprenticeships?
“There is often a misconception about the range of apprenticeships, the roles available and careers they can lead to,” explains Jason Jones-Hall, head of development at Creative Skillset. “While there are tons of good apprenticeships in traditional industries, it’s not all about high-vis vests and hardhats – there are possibilities including roles in film and TV, tech, engineering and more.”
Apprentices can also end up earning more than some graduates. The Sutton Trust found that people who had completed level five apprenticeships were expected to earn £52,000 more over their lifetimes than graduates from non-elite universities. “There’s security too: 90% of apprentices stay in employment, with seven in 10 staying with the same employer,” says Julie Taylor, careers adviser for theNational Careers Service.
What are degree apprenticeships?
Another option for school leavers is taking on a degree apprenticeship. “It’s the best of both worlds,” says Emma Finamore, editor ofAllAboutSchoolLeavers.co.uk. “You get onto one of these programmes by completing A-levels, or building up through the various levels of apprenticeship. Apprentices on these programmes study toward a degree, usually while on release from their day jobs. So you avoid student debt, while getting ahead of your peers in terms of the career ladder and salary.”
University v apprenticeships
Although Russell Group university graduates do tend to earn more than those who attended apprentice schemes, in 2015 working-age grads earned an average of £32,500 compared with £22,000 for non-graduates. There are advantages to taking on an apprenticeship, says Samantha Parry, talent manager forAccorHotels: “First, you are able to earn while you learn and gain a qualification in what you do. Second, it gets you on the career ladder straight from school – I can quote many examples of individuals who have advanced quicker in their career than those who gained a degree and then entered the world of work,”. So apprenticeships – from higher level to degree apprenticeships – are a feasible alternative to university.
You don’t need work experience to get ahead
Don’t worry if you don’t have any previous work experience. “Apprenticeships are a great first step in a career,” says Charlotte Domanski, knowledge and research manager for Business in the Community.
But don’t underestimate the value to employers of other skills and experience you might have gained. “This could be organising an event, supporting people with different levels of needs or leading a team,” she adds.
Volunteer and show transferable skills
The best way to have a strong application is to highlight experience you’ve gained, even if it wasn’t in a formal job. “For example, have you led a school project? Been the captain of your football team? Anything you can do to show you have gained valuable, transferable skills will help candidates stand out,” says Tiana Locker, youth engagement officer for the City & Guilds Group.
Volunteering work can also be used to show passion for your chosen industry. “The best way for applications to stand out is to include any volunteer work that you may have done or to get extended work experience in the area you wish to work in. This shows a willingness and passion that other applicants may not have thought of,” adds Stephanie Palmer, apprentice ambassador for GetMyFirstJob.
Show an interest in your chosen field
“As with any job application, passion, enthusiasm and knowledge of who it is you are applying to and what it is they do will take you a long way,” says Jones-Hall. “Whether that’s through voluntary work or stuff you do off your own back – for example blogs, YouTube channels, joining local groups, attending events, following the right people and seeking out opportunities on social media.”
What employers really want to see is a raw talent and enthusiasm to work in that particular environment, agrees Liz Carter, talentum consultant for O2. “A well-researched application is also key.”
Are apprenticeships only for 16-24 year olds?
Although you may think apprenticeships are aimed at the younger workforce the truth is that 79% of apprentices in 2015 were aged over 19, says Lynette Daly, publisher of the notgoingtouni.co.uk Apprenticeships Guide. “The drive for younger apprentices should be understood more as a method of increasing the uptake for those under 19,” she says.
In fact, there is no upper age limit for apprentices. However, “current funding of 16-18 apprenticeships is higher than the 19 plus age range”, says Jo Pretty, principal and chief executive of Lowestoft College.
It’s worth remembering that apprenticeships aren’t just for teenagers and there is no maximum age limit on applying, adds Finamore.