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5 things you should know about apprenticeships

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Perhaps you’ve been so focused, for so long, on pushing your students to get the grades to be accepted to university (any university), that you might not have the capacity to widen your careers provision to include preparations for apprenticeships.  I know it can be confusing, and the application processes appear complex, but the opportunities available to your pupils are evolving all the time. It’s exciting for them!

Use my 5-point guide to apprenticeships, and banish those common misunderstandings. I hope I can convince you that there is so much value to getting these right for your students.


1. You can train as an apprentice in almost anything

Groups of industry leaders known as ‘trail blazers’ identify a skill gap in their companies and come together to create a new apprenticeship qualification that fits. This means that there are over 200 new qualifications and with the introduction of the apprenticeship levy this number will rise.  You can train in anything from cybersecurity to HR.

What this means is that companies traditionally closed to apprenticeships are looking for school leavers to take on positions in their company.  For example, we place school leavers to train as software engineers at Google, and others to train as accountants at big accountancy firms and startups. You can see that the tired reputation of apprenticeships only being for manual jobs and trades is outdated. The opportunities out there for a young person leaving school at 16 or 18 are growing, and they’re growing in really interesting, stimulating places.


2. You can earn a healthy salary straight from school

It’s a common misconception that apprentices don’t earn much money and that if you go to university you will eventually be better off than your apprentice peer. Perhaps this was once true, when apprenticeships were focused on manual industries.  Now, though, there is so much more choice.

WhiteHat apprentices earn on average £15K a year but you can earn up to £24K a year by completing higher and degree level apprenticeships. And that is on top of training costs which are paid for by the employer.  It is not the destination for the faint-hearted but it is for the ambitious and talented.

Just like any regular job, the more you impress and the longer the stay the more your employer will reward you in promotions and salary raise. If you compare that to someone who has spent 3 years at university on no salary plus tuition and maintenance loans you don’t have to be a mathematician to work out who is better off!


3. A blended approach to learning

The traditional view of apprenticeships is that the apprentice is on site a few days a week, and a day or so a week at college in a classroom setting.  The theory behind apprenticeships is that on-the-job training helps put theory into practice immediately. No need to wait a few years to test it out, you can try it the next day.

Newer, more hip, apprenticeship training takes a more blended approach to learning. A combination of personalised 1-2-1 coaching, plus online learning courses and group learning brings effective learning to a new level and makes it easier for apprentices and their line managers to fit the learning in around work.


4. It is not the easier pathway

Sometimes people think that by doing an apprenticeship you are taking the easy route. Hopefully by now you know that’s just not true. Whilst university is a study only path, apprenticeships require balancing both learning and working at the same time. It requires excellent organisation and time management skills. Apprentices are relied upon in the company just like any other member of staff and often this is their first proper job. It requires a sense of maturity and that’s what employers are looking for. Maturity, work readiness and a willingness to learn.


5. You learn transferable skills which can take you anywhere

I spend a lot of time in schools, and often students cite their choice for going to university gives them ‘another 3 years to make a decision’ about their career. I get it, young people don’t know what they want to do and so take the road which keeps their options open the most. They don’t want to close any doors.

Although you are working towards a professional qualification, you don’t necessarily choose your career path at 18 and then that’s it. Any experience you have in the workplace is valuable. We all know that more and more millennials are opting for portfolio careers. There are some qualifications which are super specific, e.g. software engineering or accountancy and these do lead to professions. But there are many more which aren’t all like this. Training as an HR associate or sales manager allows you to develop multiple transferable skills to use in any workplace.  It’s not about the job you’ve had, it’s about the skills you have developed. And those skills will be transferable to another working environment so if you wanted to move on and do something different, you could. WhiteHat’s 2030 vision sets out a world where 35% of school leavers opt for an apprenticeship pathway (compared with 4% at the moment) and we hope that people ask not ‘where did you go to university?’ but ‘where did you train?’.


Charlotte Abrahamson is head of community and education at White Hat, an organisation that matches non-graduate talent to apprenticeship opportunities


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