By Sarah Veber

01 September 2015 - 10:41

'Only five per cent of apprentices are left jobless within a year of completing training.'
'Only five per cent of apprentices are left jobless within a year of completing training.' Photo ©, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 and adapted from the original.

Sarah Veber, who's working for PM Training as part of our work-study exchange programme, explains why apprenticeships are sometimes preferable to a university education.

University isn't suited to everyone

There is a tendency in today’s society to make decisions about education based on prestige, with many students choosing a university for its reputation rather than the teaching quality or cost of study. Similarly, apprenticeships tend to bring less prestige than a university education, and are often thought of as the poor relation to a degree. This is despite commitment from the government to raise the prestige of apprenticeships among employers.

Nevertheless, the average first-year dropout rate for universities in the UK is 7.4 per cent. Could apprenticeships offer students such as these an education that will help them secure more fulfilling jobs?

Apprentices have a higher rate of landing a first job

The benefits of pursuing an apprenticeship run much deeper than just monetary. Apprentices can gain direct experience in a real work environment, which makes them more employable – only five per cent of apprentices are left jobless within a year of completing training, compared with the 16 per cent of university graduates. Apprentices with on-the-job training learn what is expected of them in a work environment, thus gaining basic workplace skills before entering the job market. The range of courses available at the degree and post-graduate level for apprentices is ever growing, ranging from construction to business administration to science and engineering, and everything in between.

Apprenticeships allow you to earn while you learn

In 2012, when £9,000 tuition fees were introduced for UK universities, enrolment in part-time studies decreased by a significant 43 per cent. Since finances are a major factor when considering further studies, the earn-while-you-learn concept of an apprenticeship is appealing for many trying to avoid student debt. Beginning in October 2015, the minimum wage for an apprentice in the UK will be £3.30. If someone works a 40-hour week, that equates to approximately £6,800 gained in the first year alone – not bad for a 17-year-old.

Apprenticeships don't come with 'grade anxiety'

In today’s education system, student success is often reflected solely by grades, which can place immense pressures on any individual striving to attain academic excellence. Anxiety about academic grades can have physical, mental, and cognitive effects resulting in lower concentration levels and long-term stress. The true intent of education – to assist individuals in developing well-rounded characters and reach full potential – is compromised, as learning becomes a monotonous task rather than a pleasurable one. Apprenticeships provide an alternative for students to pursue interests and build adaptable skills, all while being assessed in a constructive manner.

Apprenticeships offer important workplace skills

Some organisations, such as PM Training, take education beyond qualifications and grades. The approach is to give school-leavers the support and guidance they need to find a rewarding career. Though good maths and English skills are crucial, further training in areas such as workplace confidence and teamwork can be useful additions to any CV - whether that be the CV of a graduate or an apprentice.

PM Training is an award-winning social enterprise in the UK helping young people and adults improve their career chances through apprenticeships and work experience.

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