Sofie Lundberg: ‘Earn while you learn’ – the benefits of apprenticeships

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Earlier this year it was revealed that large UK firms will be levied with a new tax to help fund the government’s promise of adding 3 million apprentices to the UK workforce by the year 2020. This huge step for apprenticeships must surely mean that the government believes this is the way for the future, as opposed to three years in lecture halls followed by potentially years of debt?

Historically, apprenticeships have been reserved for traditional blue collar jobs in industries like construction, plumbing, pest control, and electricity. However, we are now seeing major developments, not only in the types of apprenticeships that are available to candidates nowadays, but also in the way young people view them as a way to start their career.

When you look at them a bit more closely, apprenticeships offer a great deal. The classic slogan ‘earn while you learn’ still rings true in that not only do you not need to take out any student loans in order to gain your education and training; you are actually making money. This means that once you have finished your training and join the workforce officially, you do not need to spend years sacrificing part of your salary to a student loan.

When you are an apprentice, you are immersed in the actual workplace you will be joining afterwards, meaning that you are able to tell immediately if this is the right path for you. You will not spend three years and a huge loan while running the risk of not enjoying your career once you graduate. You are also making valuable contacts in the workplace which could prove to be valuable for the whole remainder of your career.

While attempting to have a lucrative career without a university degree to ‘fall back on’ might seem like a quite scary prospect, you will still have qualifications after finishing an apprenticeship scheme. There are Intermediate Level Apprenticeships, Advanced Level Apprenticeships, and Higher Apprenticeships – all working towards qualifications such as NVQs, Foundation degrees, or BTECs. This means that you will always have something to show for your time as an apprentice, in addition to your added work experience and skillset.

It is abundantly clear that apprenticeships, if available in the right sectors for the right job roles, are a brilliant way of shaping your career and getting a great start. This is most likely why the government has decided that large firms need to take some of the responsibility in the creation of these schemes, hopefully leading to a larger number of them being introduced.

One great example of this evolution is that you should soon be able to become a solicitor through completing an apprenticeship. This is a huge step forward for the reputation of apprenticeships, proving that in the future it might be possible, perhaps even the norm, to enter white collar jobs via learning while working rather than attending university. While these apprenticeships are still few and far between, the fact of the matter is that a conversation has been started and, assuming these schemes are proved to be successes, we should see more and more white collar apprenticeships appear.

Other areas where apprenticeships are growing in popularity are computer science, web development, management, and accountancy. More and more companies are realising that by taking on apprentices they are moulding young people into what will hopefully be fruitful employees in the future. They invest in candidates and allow them to learn a trade like web development by actually working in web development, usually accompanied by part-time traditional education. The result is a number of appropriately-trained, young and ambitious candidates who are eager to make use of and develop their new found skills further. It is an investment which should repay itself many times over.

Now, in order to do what the government are aiming to, having an additional 3 million apprentices in the workforce only 5 years from now, changes will have to continue and evolve. The reputation of apprenticeships needs to be amended to reflect their useful nature and the fact that they are a viable alternative to university – not the last resort for young people that are not able to attend university.

While this change has already begun and is steadily developing, there is still a long way to go before apprenticeships become as socially accepted as a university degree. There needs to be more education on what apprenticeships offer, what industries they are available in, and what qualifications you need in order to join one. Once this is in place we will be sure to see a much more debt-free and well-trained workforce – hopefully as soon as 2020.

Sofie Lundberg is the Content Executive at Milkround, the UK’s leading graduate and school leaver recruitment source, and writes on everything to do with graduate recruitment and school leaver alternatives. Originally from Sweden, she enjoys exploring London in her free time.

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