Apprenticeships: Should We Value Them More Highly?

Korina Karampela talks to David Way – Executive Director of National Apprenticeship Service – about the value of apprenticeships.

  • An increasing number of school leavers consider doing an apprenticeship. What are the reasons behind this trend?

Apprenticeships appeal to young people because they can earn while they learn in a real job, while gaining a real qualification.  With apprenticeships available at three different levels and across a range of different industries, young people’s options have been significantly expanded.

Evidence shows that apprenticeships lead to great future prospects. Recent research among employers has found that qualified apprentices are considered to be significantly more employable than those who have taken another route into employment. Doing an apprenticeship also significantly increases a person’s lifetime earning potential.

  •  If you were able to make one change to improve the quality of the apprenticeships offered, what would it be?


    “Apprenticeships appeal to young people because they can earn while they learn” says David Way

Apprenticeships are already high quality and lead to nationally recognised qualifications. However, we are always looking for ways to improve the options available to young people.

Higher Apprenticeships are a good example of how we are achieving this – these apprenticeships are equivalent to a foundation degree, and we are continually expanding the range of them on offer. With a Higher Apprenticeship, a young person can work their way up to a degree, gaining specialised and advanced skills, while earning a wage.

The government has also announced plans to extend apprenticeships to offer even more advanced options – in future, apprentices will be able to work their way up to Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree level. I believe this will be key to ensuring the continued growth of apprenticeships.

  • What is the most common misconception that people have about apprenticeships?

When people think of an apprentice, they perhaps picture a mechanic or an engineer, and therefore have quite a narrow idea of what doing an apprenticeship means. Whereas the truth is that apprenticeships cover a wealth of subjects and job types.

Currently, more than 100,000 employers in England offer apprenticeships in over 170 industries and 1500 different job roles. As well as traditional industries such as engineering, apprenticeships are available in areas such as marketing, business, accountancy, veterinary nursing, community arts, hospitality and catering, child care – whatever a person’s interests or skill level, there is likely to be an apprenticeship to suit them.

There can also be a misconception that doing an apprenticeship is second best to taking the traditional academic route to university, but with Higher Apprenticeships on offer that is absolutely not the case.

  • What are the 3 ‘Dos’ and 3 ‘Don’ts’ young people who consider doing an apprenticeship need to be aware of?

The Dos are:

  1. Do use the Apprenticeship vacancies website to search and apply for apprenticeships. There are up to 17,000 vacancies available at any one time, and it’s simple to create an account, set your preferences, search and apply. You can also use the new AV Search app for iPhone and Android.
  2. Do find out more about the employer and job before applying for an apprenticeship. This will help you prepare your application and feel sure the vacancy fits what you want to do.
  3. Do clearly identify your skills and interests clearly when applying – do not assume the employer can read between the lines. Make sure your application is professionally written, and allow your personality to come out.

The Don’ts are:

  1. Don’t use the same CV and covering letter for each vacancy. Tailor each application so that you emphasise the skills that the particular employer is looking for and how yours fit their specific needs.
  2. Don’t just send in an application and then forget about it – be proactive and follow it up with a phone call, to make sure that your CV is top of the pile.
  3. Don’t give up! Apprenticeships are sought-after, so expect some competition. If you don’t get onto an apprenticeship with your first try, keep putting in your best applications and you’ll eventually find one that’s right for you.

The bottom line: There are many good options available to young people if they don’t want to follow the traditional university route. An apprenticeship is an alternative way to gain a qualification while they earn a wage at the same time.

Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply, coach and speaker. She is the author of “b4iapply to uni” and “b4iapply to college“. She has worked as senior pharmaceutical executive for 12 years and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. Her blog b4iapply is recommended by The Guardian for professional development.

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