Emma Whiting, Lead Employer Brokerage Adviser

I apprenticed in business administration after leaving a school sixth form which tended to encourage students towards the purely academic route of university (as many school-based sixth forms do). Colleges are often more aware of apprenticeships and traineeships, so when I decided I wanted to become an apprentice, I had to find out more for myself. I’m glad I did.

Now, as a Brokerage Adviser for the Skill Up Bucks programme, I talk to employers about how they can engage and onboard young people. This includes supporting apprenticeships, T-Levels and traineeships. So I’m working in a sector where I can speak from personal experience!

Here’s my take on why apprenticeships are great.

Real-world application

As an apprentice you get to apply your lessons in the real world. That’s a fantastic way to learn because it means you embed your learning and don’t forget it. In my experience, there’s no better way to learn.

Small businesses can benefit

Apprenticeships can help small businesses access talent at lower risk, because they can get funding to hire apprentices, and at the end of the apprenticeship they’ve got a fully-trained professional on their hands!

Moulding great employees

Employers can hire apprentices and mould them into the perfect employee. Young people leaving education and entering the world of work for the first time have a lot to learn about the realities of work, and there’s a lot of talk about a lack of employability skills among university graduates. Apprenticeships allow people to bridge the gap between education and work. By the time you complete an apprenticeship you’ll be a well-rounded employee with important work skills like organisation, time keeping and time management, prioritisation, team working, tenacity and so on. That’s in addition to your specific apprenticeship training—and those work skills are incredibly valuable to employers.

You can mature fast

When you go from school into an apprenticeship, you enter an adult world. You have to get used to that more or less overnight. It’s a challenge, but for the right person it’s fantastically exciting. You’re expected to manage your time and your workload, and when you’re sixteen or eighteen it’s a great feeling to be an adult with defined responsibilities (which will depend on your role). I cannot emphasise enough how empowering that can feel if you embrace it.

You’re supported

Apprenticeships are all about learning and your employer and learning provider will understand that you’re at the start of your career. Normally, an apprentice will have a line manager and a tutor for their academic studies, which is a lot more support than many students get. In more academic environments each teacher or lecturer has to support a lot of students, and academic learning is often very self-directed. As an apprentice, you’ll receive lots of hands-on support that could include guidance from skilled professionals in your chosen field.

Access to sectors

The vocational aspect of an apprenticeship means you gain access to a specific sector that interests you, while plenty of university students graduate without an idea about what they want to do next, and no particular readiness for a career.

There are some sectors or industries where this is especially true: for highly competitive sectors such as motorsport or engineering, apprenticeships are an excellent way to get a foot in the door and gain an advantage early on in your career. It can be much harder to enter those industries through more academic routes.

A flexible way into a career

You can study for apprenticeships at a variety of levels, to suit your needs, ambitions or the amount of time you can commit to. A level two apprenticeship is equivalent to GCSEs, level three to “A” Levels and level 4 to a certificate of Higher Education. Level five is equivalent to a foundation degree, six to a full degree and seven to a Master’s degree or postgraduate qualification. All of this means that if you are not ready to study at degree or postgraduate level, you can take a level three or four apprenticeship, and so on.

New apprenticeships

New apprenticeships are likely to come into being all the time, and there are some that are uncommon but can be found if you look in the right places—the University of Buckingham is one of the largest providers of the apprenticeship route to Qualified Teacher Status and optional PGCE, for example. If you can’t find an apprenticeship into your preferred career right now, it doesn’t mean there will never be one.

They’re a great door-opener

Apprenticeships can open doors for people who can’t afford to go to university, or who want to switch careers later in life—something that happens a lot more than you might think: in the 2021/2022 academic year, over 47% of UK apprentices were aged 25 or over*. And by no means are apprenticeships exclusively for the young. There is no age limit on who can be an apprentice, and many people over 50 years choose to enter a new career as an apprentice.

*Source: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/apprenticeships-and-traineeships/2021-22


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