The economic downturn and the increase in university fees in the UK have made apprenticeships an attractive career path to an increasing number of people. Apprenticeships offer an unparalleled opportunity to work for some of the biggest brands and gain professional experience.
Many apprenticeships are paid and give access to higher education courses. There are other benefits, including the chance to work in a chosen field with little experience or industry-specific education, which make apprenticeships a helpful way to shape a better career.
Apprenticeships Are Well-Funded and Supported by Government
In the UK, apprenticeships date back to the Middle Ages, when they were closely affiliated with the medieval craft guilds. They continued to expand over the centuries as a way for young people, normally aged 15, to learn a range of manual trades. By 1914, the most popular apprenticeships were in dressmaking and engineering. After a dip in popularity in the late 20th century, apprenticeships have recently regained their popularity. The UK government invested £1.5 billion in new apprenticeships between 2013 and 2014, and since 2010 more than two million people have started an apprenticeship programme.
Employers consider apprenticeships to be an investment. According to government statistics, 70% of businesses with apprenticeship programmes found that there was an overall increase in productivity and service or product value. Mutuality of interest is one of the attractive features of apprenticeships. There are more than 25,000 vacancies online at any point in time, and apprenticeships are now offered in more than 170 industries, including media, fashion and finance.
An Alternative to Traditional Higher Education
As an alternative to university education, apprenticeships are a viable way to gain specialised knowledge. Many apprentices undertake higher education courses, enhanced by the ability to practically apply what they are learning on the job. Participants have access to professional qualifications such as foundation degrees, Higher National Certificates (HNC) and Higher National Diplomas (HND). They can also study for National Vocational qualifications and can progress as far as level 5, which is the equivalent to a postgraduate qualification.
Although there are no formal requirements for being an apprentice, those for whom it is a good fit are usually between the ages of 16 and 24, adaptable, passionate and eager to learn.
A Pathway to a Better Career
With more than 70% of those who are apprentices successfully transitioning to permanent positions within their host organisations, apprenticeships have a good record when it comes to shaping careers.
Apprenticeships come with a minimum wage of £2.65, and although it varies among employers, they can have the further benefits of flexi-time, part-time hours and paid holidays.
Unmatched in their ability to prepare young people for work, apprenticeships not only give direct industry experience but also give apprentices the chance to hone their skills and become experts in their chosen fields. Apprentices can be regarded as more valuable than university graduates, who have degrees but little or no work experience in their field of study.