The Pros and Cons of Apprenticeships

Carpenter with apprentice

Mapping out your career path at the age of 17 can be somewhat confusing; you often find yourself having more questions than answers. Do you want to go to university? Are the expensive fees worth attaining your dream job? What even is your dream job? Do you want to move away from home? What other options do you have?

Sometimes all these questions can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you’ve just left school and are pressed to make a decision – yesterday.

But if you’re not completely sold on the idea of going to university, don’t worry: there are plenty of other ways you can start your career. Like doing an apprenticeship, for example.

But are apprenticeships really a good idea? Check out the advantages and disadvantages of a government-funded work-based training programme below, and decide for yourself!

The Pros

1. You’ll Arm Yourself with Experience

Apprenticeships enable you to stay ahead of university graduates by providing you with hands-on training and give you real experience in the working world. Simply put: you’ll gain valuable experience within your chosen industry, helping you boost your CV and making future employers view you as an asset to their organisations.

2. You’ll Broaden Your Skill Set

One of the main benefits is that you’re able to build new and develop key skills that employers look for in employees, giving you an advantage over other candidates when you start looking for a ‘real’ job. Companies value skills like communication, IT, numeracy and teamwork – and the more you have to offer, the better your chances will be at landing a job.

3. You’ll Earn While You Learn

What’s better than receiving a salary while gaining your diploma? Although the wage is lower, it’s still something, right?! As of April 2017, apprentices aged 18 must be paid the standard National Minimum Wage after 12 months (£5.60). Those that are younger or within the first year of their programme will receive at least £3.50 an hour, although many employers do tend to pay higher than the standard wage. Many university students that are already head over heels in debt also end up doing free work experience to gain the knowledge in the desired field, which means that you’d be one step ahead.

4. You’ll Have No Debt to Pay Back

According to the Student Loans Company, as of March 2017, debt has risen to £100 billion. Once an employee receives over £17,775 per annum, they must begin repayments. This can be, quite naturally, very daunting.

There are millions of students that spend their entire working life repaying their loan. However, when undertaking an apprenticeship, you will finish debt-free.

5. It Will Increase Your Confidence

The idea of having your first interview and not being successful can knock any young professional’s confidence. This confidence barrier can come in the form of uncertainty about job expectations or an unrealistic picture of the chosen career path. Those that have finished an apprenticeship may see that their confidence levels are high due to already having work experience under their belt and feeling like they already fit in.

6. You’ll Gain a New Qualification

By the end of the programme, you’ll be able to add another qualification to your CV and, in effect, present yourself as a knowledgeable and experienced professional to potential employers. You’ll also have the opportunity of moving to another department that may be of interest to you or the chance to bag yourself a full-time job at the end of your apprenticeship.

7. You’ll Get Paid Holidays

Receiving a wage to go on holiday can be such a relief! You can go away, have a good time and know you’re getting paid for it, too. University students don’t have this luxury; they either have to save or use part of their loan to be able to travel.

8. You’ll Get a Secure Income

The average length of time to complete an apprenticeship is three to four years, although this can vary depending on your choice of trade and the range of skills you can learn with your current employer. An Intermediate Level 2 Apprenticeship usually takes around 12 to 18 months and an Advanced Level 3 Apprenticeship takes around 24 months to complete. In short, for that amount of time, you will have a set monthly wage. Apprentices do not tend to struggle to find full-time employment once they finish, and often end up staying with their sponsored company for some time.

9. You’ll Get Access to Higher Apprenticeships

Working toward a recognised qualification like an NVQ or a BTEC can help you pursue higher education, so going to university at a later stage needn’t be off the cards. In addition, higher apprentices, involving foundation degrees and HNDs, receive a wage of £170 to £300 per week. In order to qualify for a higher apprenticeship, you must be 18 or over. Usually, applicants who have already done an advanced apprenticeship or who have a minimum of two A-levels will be eligible.

The Cons

1. You Won’t Get Access to Certain Careers

It can be extremely challenging if you attain an apprenticeship and later on in life decide that you want to change career paths. Having an undergraduate degree is an essential requirement for certain careers, particularly in areas such as medicine and science.

2. You Won’t Experience University Life

Part of being a young adult is having the opportunity to go to university and experience the lifestyle. By jumping ahead and straight into the working world, you will miss out on the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience.

3. You’ll Have Greater Responsibilities

Taking part in an apprenticeship will also come with a lot of responsibility, including getting to work on time, being on a schedule, taking care of your finances and, most importantly, completing all your working daily tasks. This added stress can take a toll on a young adult’s wellbeing.

4. Holidays Are Short

The benefit of being at university is receiving those extra long holidays. However, when you're completing an apprenticeship, you will have the national holiday allowance which is 5.6 weeks if you are in full-time employment.

5. The Competition Is Tough

Apprenticeships are in high demand, so you may find that it’s quite hard to get onto one compared to going to university. If you really want to get on an apprenticeship, then you need to make sure you have put some work into your application. Have a look at our tips on how to find an apprenticeship to ensure you have covered all areas.

6. The Salary Is Lower

Starting salaries for graduates tend to be higher. According to the 2016 Graduate Labour Market Statistics report, graduates aged between 21 and 30 years old earned £9,500 per year more than those with an NVQ-level qualification.

Have you applied for an apprenticeship before? Drop us a comment in the box below to share your thoughts…

Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out our list of university alternatives if you’re not completely sold on the idea of going to uni. Plus, take a look at our in-depth guide on planning for the future if you’ve just finished school.