The Next Step

You know the career you want, you just don’t know how best to get to it. Perhaps an apprenticeship could be the answer? We take a look at the changing face of work-based learning.

Summer is almost upon us and with it comes a time to regroup, relax and think about the next steps in your educational career – whether that be SATs, GCSEs or just the challenge of new school year.

But if you’re approaching the end of your time at school you’ll likely be thinking about where to go next. If university isn’t the right choice for you, an apprenticeship may well be.

In recent years the number and variety of apprenticeships on offer has soared, with almost all industries now offering a training scheme of some kind. As such, many young people are looking to this route to reach their desired career.

We know that making a decision at 16 for your own or your child’s future is daunting. So to make sure you’re well equipped and fully informed we’ve enlisted the help of some experts to delve deeper into the apprenticeship route and answer questions you’re sure to have.

What are the benefits of apprenticeships?

Put simply, an apprenticeship is a job that includes professional training. An apprentice will get the opportunity to earn money whilst developing the knowledge and skills required to be a success in their chosen career.

Laura Beswick is head of apprenticeships at BPP Professional Education, a training provider for apprenticeships in business, accountancy, finance and law. She works closely with employers to design and develop apprenticeship programmes that add value to both the apprentice and the employer with a particular focus on the accountancy and tax profession.

“An apprentice will get the unique opportunity to learn techniques and theory in the classroom and then immediately apply it to a real life work situation,” she says. “They won’t have to worry about securing employment or acquiring debt as they will be in a job already and earning money whilst receiving high quality training. It gives them the opportunity to get into employment in their chosen career earlier allowing them to progress quickly whilst also earning a salary.”

How have they changed?

Just as the education landscape as a whole has changed considerably over the years, so too has the apprenticeship offering, from the funding that is available to businesses, to the way that training is delivered and the way that the programmes are structured.

Becca Bray, is business consultant at tech focused training provider Baltic Training.

“The apprenticeship levy was introduced in April 2017, to help the government reach their goals of getting three million apprentices into businesses by 2020, and was designed to help boost the economy, create and develop a more technically-skilled workforce and ensure that large employers invest in learning and development for their employees,” she explains.

On how the training itself is conducted she says companies have moved away from the traditional classroom training for apprentices.

“Because we’re a tech-focused provider it is important that we practice what we preach. That’s why we’re moving with the ever-evolving digital world and teach tech with tech and deliver all of our training online. This is not only cost-effective for employers, but it is also more beneficial for apprentices as the learning is intensified.”

The best of both worlds?

In the last three years we’ve also seen the introduction of degree apprenticeships.

Introduced in 2015, degree apprenticeships allow students to gain the on the job practical training of an apprenticeship while still achieving a bachelor’s or postgraduate degree, the apprenticeships are funded by The Degree Apprenticeships Development Fund (DADF), delivered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

The first phase of funding for the Development Fund delivered £4.5 million to 18 projects, which included 25 higher education institutions and 20 further education colleges. The second phase made an extra £4 million in funding available.

Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) is one such provider.

“LJMU is committed to developing quality degree apprenticeship delivery in subject areas that meet employer needs and industry skills gaps,” says Dr Jo Pritchard, the university’s Degree Apprenticeships project manager. “We believe that the degree apprenticeship model presents diversity of choice for students who want to study as part of an employment contract. The salary and the funding model which supports the costs of the programme, makes the degree apprenticeship study route an attractive option for many individuals who may not otherwise have access to higher education.

At present, LJMU offers a range degree apprenticeships to employers, and their learners, in the engineering, construction, healthcare science, and digital sectors.

“We also offer both undergraduate and post graduate apprenticeship opportunities in leadership and management which are proving to be attractive options to employers in a wide range of industry sectors, interested in developing managers and senior leaders,” adds Jo.

Indeed, while such apprenticeships are a smart option for school leavers, there is also no age restriction.

“You can do an apprenticeship at any stage of your career as long as you are developing substantial new skills,” adds Laura.

Alan Brown is marketing manager at training provider Asset Training. He says in his 28 years of experience apprenticeships have constantly evolved.

“This is challenging in some respects, as the standards and the goalposts often change in relation to the way that ‘competence’ is assessed,” he says. “The positive side to this is that it enables the standards within the apprenticeships to stay current and relevant to the industry that they relate to.

“Also, they now tend to consist of a ‘menu’ system, enabling the learner to select which units within their chosen award are the most suitable for their learning journey. They are also accompanied by ‘Functional Skills’ at the moment (previously ‘Key Skills’) which enable the learner to upskill their English, maths and in some cases ICT skills.”

And the changing nature of apprenticeships mean the careers they can lead to have changed to.

Indeed, when most people think of apprenticeships they think of trade roles like engineering, plumbing or hairdressing. However, most professions now have an apprenticeship route available.

“Professions that previously might have only been accessible if you had a degree are opening up and you could now become an accountant, a banker, a lawyer or a nurse, for example, via an apprenticeship,” says Laura. “Employers like KPMG, Royal Bank of Scotland, BT and Ford all have substantial professional apprenticeship intakes each year and with the introduction of degree and masters level apprenticeships we envisage most graduate programmes transitioning on to an apprenticeship pathway in the future.”

In fact, Alan says it may be easier to list which careers don’t offer apprenticeships than the other way around.

“Here at Asset for example, we deliver apprenticeships in the likes of Business Administration, Customer Service, Warehousing & Logistics, Health & Social Care, Manufacturing, Sales, ICT, Team Leading and Management,” he says. “There really are a wide range of other areas too though.”

When is an apprenticeship more suitable than university?

For many youngsters who already know they don’t want to go to university, apprenticeships are a great option for gaining invaluable, hands-on experience.

“I started my own career through an apprenticeship in 2013 with Baltic Training,” says Becca. “I did a Level 3 Social Media and Digital Marketing course. I was 17 and knew I didn’t want to go to university. I wanted to get straight into work and make money quick! Five years later I work for Baltic Training educating businesses on the importance of apprenticeships in the digital sector.”

Of course there are some careers where you need a degree, but there comes a point where experience far outweighs qualifications, and this is something that more and more employers are starting to consider when recruiting.

“At the end of the 12 month apprenticeship programme you come out with 12 months experience and a nationally recognised qualification,” adds Becca. “At the end of your degree you can be left searching for a job for months on end because employers are choosing experience over qualifications.”

Debt and financial worries can also have an influence.

“University is also extremely expensive costing £9,000 per year, whereas for 16-18 year olds apprenticeships are completely free,” says Becca. “So not only can you earn while you learn, you don’t end up in thousands of pounds worth of debt at the end of it. Our apprenticeships are worth between £12,000 and £18,000 and the government are willing to fully fund those programmes to help close the digital skills gap in the UK. The amount of free training available is incredible and not enough people are aware of it.”

Apprenticeships are considerably shorter than university, with most ranging between 12 and 18 months depending on what sort of level you’re studying at. To study for a bachelor’s degree takes three years.

And of course it’s not just apprentices who can benefit from apprenticeships. Many businesses are also seeing the benefits of taking on an apprentice.

“Apprentices bring enthusiasm and loyalty to any business, our apprentices are eager to learn and studies show that retention is much higher with apprentices,” says Laura. “An employer can gain a competitive edge by bringing talent into their company earlier, shaping that person to their company values and developing the skills that are required for that particular employer.”

There is also the opportunity for employers to receive a grant of £1,000 for recruiting a 16-18 year old apprentice.

“As much as I personally hate statistics, research with employers has also found that 83% of employers would speak favourably about apprenticeships to other employers, 69% of employers report that apprenticeships have helped to improve staff retention and 78% of employers stated that apprenticeships improved productivity,” says Alan.

Indeed, staff retention is a big bonus. A lot of small businesses struggle to retain and motivate staff. Not all business owners are aware that they can use the government funding and their levy pot (if they pay into it) to develop and train their existing staff.

“We encourage employers to take advantage of the funding available because by investing time and training in staff, it creates loyalty and keeps them motivated,” says Becca. “For new apprentices, Baltic have a 94% retention rate. This means that 94% of our apprentices then go on to be employed full time with their employer upon successful completion of their programme. This also shows that apprenticeships create loyal employees.”

Ultimately the path you or your child takes will depend on a whole range of factors and personal choice but if you thought uni was the only guarantee of career success, it seems that’s definitely not the case.

Thinking of applying for an apprenticeship?

You can find out what’s on offer by visiting:

For a full list of the Degree Apprenticeships on offer at LJMU, visit:

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