Apprenticeships have developed a somewhat tainted reputation since they were first introduced in 1990, with many individuals believing they are an inferior substitute for a university degree course for those who do not achieve the necessary grades or for those hopping to pursue a career in manual labour. However, apprenticeships have changed and developed significantly since their inception and many school leavers are now choosing apprenticeships over degree courses to enable them to gain the relevant industry experience they require, whilst earning and in many cases, studying. Top firms have demonstrated their belief in the value of apprenticeships by continuing to expand the number of places available on their schemes; EY, PwC and Nestle have expanded their apprenticeship schemes alongside their graduate programme and report that many apprentices are demonstrating more potential than their graduate trainees.
It is no surprise that one of the deciding factors for many young people who are faced with the tough decision of deliberating between going to university, undertaking an apprenticeship or going straight into a full-time job is the huge burden of debt that face those undertaking a university degree. Depressingly, four out of ten university students are not expected to have cleared their debts 30 years after graduation and this is worsened with the reality that getting a degree does not guarantee you will acquire a good job at the end, highlighted by the statistic revealing half of recent graduates are currently working in positions that do not require a degree. Indeed, obtaining a university degree has many benefits, primarily providing a professional qualification that is respected and recognised worldwide that the individual will then have for life; however, with apprenticeships offering valuable work experience and with an increasing number allowing individuals to study a degree course as part of the scheme, apprenticeships should be seen as a very appealing option and one which school leavers today should definitely consider.
Further benefits that apprenticeships can provide for those considering enrolling include the ability to develop a broader and more specialist range of skills and knowledge that can significantly improve future prospects, especially for those considering a career in an industry where experience is vital. In addition, apprenticeships provide the opportunity for high earning potential and can be very rewarding, both financially and intellectually. From a recruitment perspective, they are also a great way for individuals to get an indication of whether their chosen career path is the right path for them; something which is often hard to tell from studying a vocational course with little, if any, hands-on experience.
These benefits are not just restricted to apprenticeships and therefore predominantly school leavers; businesses can also take advantage of these benefits by offering their employees the opportunity to upskill by completing on-the-job qualifications. Management may recognise that their existing employee’s skillsets within the business could be utilised elsewhere and offering these types of qualifications can be an easy way to rectify this. They can also provide a way to fill existing gaps in the workforce without necessarily having to invest in a new hire and it can help existing employees gain the skills needed to transition into a new department or get a promotion.
Offering both apprenticeships and on-the-job qualifications can be hugely beneficial for companies; they are both excellent for helping businesses grow, improving employee engagement and nurturing the skills the workforce need for the future. Again, looking at it from a recruitment perspective, apprenticeships are a brilliant way to entice candidates to a business in order for management to then train and develop individuals into their ideal workforce, whilst offering the opportunity to study on the job is a great way to not only attract new talent but also retain existing talent.
Moving forward more needs to be done to highlight the many benefits apprenticeships and on-the-job qualifications can bring, both to the individuals enrolling and to the companies offering these schemes. Currently there seems to be a disconnect between employers and schools; employers blame school leavers and graduates for not being work ready, whilst those in education don’t have enough information about the range of opportunities available to them. Many schools are still guilty of endlessly promoting sixth form study and higher education but fail to inspire pupils to consider other vocational paths, which in some cases may be better suited to the individual. Employers offering apprenticeships and on-the-job qualifications should work together with schools to ensure their offerings are known to students and their benefits are highlighted. As someone who opted to undertake an apprenticeship rather than go to university, I know the true value that these types of schemes and qualifications can bring. Since leaving school, I have obtained three additional qualifications, one of which was studied through an apprenticeship scheme and the other two through on-the-job training. I am now working towards a further qualification via an apprenticeship scheme with two of my colleagues which, once completed, will award us each with a level 3 diploma. I believe that if more individuals knew the huge benefits that these schemes can provide, not only would more school leavers be considering these options, but more companies would begin offering them.
If you would like any further information about apprenticeship schemes/on-the-job qualifications and how these could aid your future career development or your business, please do not hesitate to contact me directly on 07943 710 160 or a member of our team on 0113 332 0678.