A Student's Guide To Apprenticeships!

Sunday, February 07, 2021

 Not everyone likes school, but it can be hard to find a job without some qualifications. Apprenticeships are brilliant routes for those looking to earn money and get a degree level qualification. From the 8th to 12th February is National Apprenticeship Week. You may be struggling to decide what you want to do after GCSEs or Sixth Form, so I'm here to show you an alternative route. In school, I found that apprenticeships weren't supported or spoken about a lot. Here are some things you should know about apprenticeships! 

A Little Bit About Me

You may be wondering why I speak a lot about apprenticeships. Well, I am currently six months into an accounting apprenticeship, one of the best decisions I've ever made. I left sixth form and went straight into my job. I didn't even consider going to university. During my education, I struggled with an eating disorder, and I hated school. There are a lot of bad memories that I associate with school. I also didn't want to give up another four years of my life for a qualification that could I achieve while earning money. Obviously, not all jobs can be done through an apprenticeship, but you'd be surprised what you can do!  

My boyfriend didn't even go to sixth form. He passed GCSEs and went into an accounting apprenticeship. He is now three years into a qualification, ahead of those going to university. I have nothing against going to university, but it definitely wasn't the route for me. University is the most common route, but know there are other options out there!

What Is An Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a job which usually comes with a qualification at the end of it. It is where you'll work as any adult would, but you also partake in studying and off the job training. It is like mixing university with a job but taking the good aspects from both. You make friends and get a qualification like at university, but you also make money. 

There are different levels of apprenticeship, meaning you can get one at any age. I didn't realise there were different levels when I first started applying. You must sign up for the right one, so you don't fall behind where you thought you were!

  • Intermediate or Level 2 - Equivalent to GCSE
  • Advanced or Level 3 - Equivalent to A-Level
  • Higher or Level 4 & 5 - Equivalent to a foundation degree or higher
  • Degree or Level 6 & 7 - Equivalent to a bachelors or masters degree

Don't worry if you're doing a level three qualification after A-levels. It may seem like you're going back on yourself, but you need to look at the bigger picture. I am a doing a level 3 accounting apprenticeship, so I have the knowledge and experience for the higher exam. It's worth talking to the apprenticeship organiser or someone in your field to advice on the best level to start at. Personally, starting at level 3 for accounting is a great start. 

Apprenticeships vary in length too. My qualification lasts around 3-4 years, but some will only last a year. Make sure you look into how long your apprenticeship lasts and if you're guaranteed a job afterwards. Some firms will automatically give you a place after your exams, so you're guaranteed a job and a qualification! Don't think that all apprenticeships are hands-on. While plumbing and engineering are the most stereotypical types, you can get an apprenticeship in most things. From marketing to design, catering to nursing, there is a role for everyone!

Why Should You Take An Apprenticeship

I was scared to take the leap and quit school forever. My sixth form gave little help for finding an apprenticeship and what it entails. I had to do a lot of research for myself. Here are some of the benefits of taking an apprenticeship, rather than going to higher education!

  • There is no debt at the end of it - all of your exams are paid for, and you don't have tuition to consider
  • You get paid to learn - most apprenticeships have a starting wage of £17,800 a year which is nearly the amount of debt you'd be in after studying at university.
  • You'll gain vital work experience - it's good to have qualifications, but future employers will highly regard any experience you have.
  • Many places will give you internal training, so you'll gain other CV worthy skills along the way.
  • You will gain a recognised qualification.
  • You'll may find yourself ahead - Many apprentices will finish their qualification at the same time as friends at university. The difference is you'll have a job as well as a degree.
  • Study & work stays in work time - I don't get homework or have to work late, so all of my free time is for me!
  • You will still get your student discounts - I still have student Amazon prime and an NUS card, so don't worry about not getting money off!

Where You Can Find Apprenticeships

At first, I found it hard to find an apprenticeship. I didn't know where to look, as it's not like picking a university. You'd be surprised how many firms are looking for apprentices! Here's where I found most of my apprenticeship opportunities:

  • The careers fair - Yes, don't feel ashamed of attending the fair at your school! While most of them were looking for full-time workers, it gave me an idea of what I wanted to do.
  • Get my first job - Get my first job is a lovely little website which shows a wide range of apprenticeships and trainee positions in your area. It's worth signing up for notifications too!
  • On company websites - If you have a firm in mind, look at their careers page. Some offer apprenticeships that aren't advertised on third party sites.
  • UCAS or the Gov website - Both UCAS and the Government's apprenticeship website have jobs listed for apprentices. UCAS isn't just for university students!

You have to be patient, especially with the pandemic. I was surprised that so many places were still hiring. Have a look around, and don't be afraid to look on Indeed for jobs too. I found myself typing in Apprenticeships near me a lot, and that's where I found my current job! 

Things You Should Consider

You need to be disciplined - Apprenticeships are nothing like school education. You have your lessons and teacher support if you need it, but most of the study is self-guided. This means you need to be self-disciplined as while the teachers are there, they actually won't force you to do homework or other set tasks.

You typically book your own exams - I thought there were set days for exams. If you sit one course, you need to book your exam. This is great as you can choose how long you revise for before your exam! I wouldn't leave it too long after your last course date as you may be starting your next course before you sit your exam. 

20% Of your work hours should be off the job training - I didn't know what this meant at first. You'll need to keep a timesheet of all the training you do during your work hours. Off the job training could be learning how to use a new program or study day, but must be within your working day. Make sure you track your learning from day one to avoid missing time!

Your apprenticeship may not guarantee you a job - I've been offered a job at the end of my study. Make sure you read your contract beforehand, so you know if you'll be getting a job. It's not the end of the world if your apprenticeship doesn't include employment, but it's nice to know as you need to start looking elsewhere!

You may be liable to pay back fees - You need to read your contract carefully. Some companies will require you to pay back your exam and education fees if you leave halfway through your apprenticeship. Understandably, they don't want to be paying for your exams if you're just going to leave. Some places may also require you to stay for a year after your last exam to make their investment in you worthwhile. Consider these before you jump into a job! 

My apprenticeship has turned my life around. I hated school but have found a new passion for education, which is a great feeling. It's allowed me to save enough already, and I will be moving out with my boyfriend soon! I also can afford nice things which not all of my university friends can. While I am not against going to university, I think it's nice for people to know there is another route. Don't feel forced down the university route when you could be hands-on in a job you love! If you have any questions about apprenticeships, I'm happy to answer them! I'd love to hear your thoughts on apprenticeships in the comments!

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  1. Not really relevant to me because at my age I think I'm a little bit past apprenticeships... I'm set in my ways! A really interesting and informative post though. Thanks for sharing ♥

  2. This is a fab guide that I'm no doubt sure will really help those looking to undertake an apprenticeship! Thanks for sharing em x

  3. I didn't do an apprenticeship but I rave about them to any young person who will tolerate listening to me!!!

    I honestly think they are such a good idea, earning money and training just seems like a no-brainer. This is such good advice Em x

  4. I didn't know you could have an apprenticeship before university or A levels! I think this will be very helpful for students. thanks for sharing x

  5. Apprenticeships are a great alternative if youre not looking at uni and i love that you're learning a lot more hands on! Buuuut i find that every apprenticeship wage (in most cases) are a lot less than minimum wage so if you had bills to pay etc it'd be a struggle to properly live off that wage but most apprentices are like 17-19 so i guess you wouldnt have many bills to pay if you were still living at home x

  6. This post is EXCELLENT. I hope schools, colleges and sixth forms use a post like this to help shape the futures of so many. When I was at school, it was uni or bust. If I could go back, I'd have never gone to uni and instead looked at on-the-job style training like an apprenticeship


  7. Amazing guide, thank you for sharing! I think apprenticeships are such a great opportunity! X

  8. So true! Even though I went to uni, sometimes I wish I did an apprenticeship! Lots of my friends have chosen this route!