First of all, congratulations for completing your A Levels or GCSEs! No matter what grades you got, you did it and it’s finally over!
Thursday 16th August 2018 was A Level results day and as a former apprentice, I can give you a true and honest account of what my experience was like doing an apprenticeship instead of going to university.
I was an apprentice at one of the UK’s leading digital marketing service providers and one of Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work in the UK for 2016, 2017 and 2018. I got into my top choice universities after completing my A Levels and achieving good grades, however I decided to turn the offers down, withdraw my applications and become an apprentice instead – read more about that here.
Let me start off by saying, whether you choose to go to university, do an apprenticeship or get a permanent job is completely up to you. Don’t allow anyone to force you in a direction you don’t want to take.
This is YOUR future and YOUR career, not theirs.
Contents of this blog post:
So, what is an apprenticeship?
In a nutshell, an apprenticeship is a partly or fully government funded scheme whereby you work at a company (usually full-time) for a temporary amount of time (between 1-5 years depending on the level) whilst gaining skills and learning on-the-job. Within that time, you work towards a qualification, in my case it was a Digital Marketing Diploma.
You will be paid for being there (an annual salary or hourly wage) although it might be lower than the average minimum wage because apprentice minimum wage is lower (annoying, I know) however some companies are generous and pay you well, I was one of the lucky ones!
Depending on the employer and apprenticeship provider, you will either get dedicated days to complete coursework for your qualification or you’ll be doing it all on-the-job and being monitored. The hope at the end of an apprenticeship is to be offered a permanent role at that company or take your skills elsewhere. Either way, you’ve done the training you need to help build your career.
The Government website have a much more detailed explanation about apprenticeships that I highly recommend you read. https://www.gov.uk/apprenticeships-guide
What are the pros and cons of doing an apprenticeship?
Quick disclaimer, there are so many advantages and disadvantages of doing an apprenticeship so the ones I discuss are things that I’ve personally experienced. If you choose to do an apprenticeship they might be different for you. Also, I can only share my experience as somebody who did a 1 year apprenticeship instead of going to university (after A Levels) aged 18-19, not after GCSEs.
The pros (advantages):
Regardless how much you earn for your apprenticeship, it’s quite likely it’ll be more than you’re used to earning from part-time jobs during school/college. Also, as an apprentice, you’re entitled to the same working rights as all of the other employers so that includes holiday pay and any benefits your company offers. Learn more about apprentice rights here.
I’m not 100% sure on the ins and outs of how apprenticeships are funded (I’m sure you can find that info online) but most apprenticeships for school/college leavers are funded by the government and/or your employer. Essentially, you’re getting on-the-job training and invaluable experience in the career you want for absolutely free. Unlike having to pay university fees which gives you no practical on-the-job experience unless you do work experience or a placement year. The fact you’re getting paid and also getting a qualification is a no brainer to me.
Experience in comparison to your peers
One of the biggest pros of doing an apprenticeship is that you’ll get a head start against your peers who want the same career as you. It’s definitely not a competition, but when you get a job because you have more experience than someone else your age, you’ll be thankful.
Think about it like this – there’s two people who are the same age, applying for the same job…one is fresh out of university after doing a 3 year course and the other has a qualification in that field due to a 1 year apprenticeship and a further 2 years experience in the field, who would you be more inclined employ?
Of course, it’s not just experience that lands you a job! You actually have to be good at what you do and pleasant to be around but you see my point, right? 3 years more experience than your peers will become very helpful and you should use it to your advantage.
Opportunity to work at big companies
A lot of industry-leading big name companies have apprenticeship schemes. Google, Microsoft, BBC, Virgin Media, John Lewis, Mercedes-Benz and RBS to name but a few.
Don’t get me wrong, to get into these apprenticeship schemes is highly competitive and goodness knows how many applications they get each year but it gives you a chance to work there without needing any prior experience because they’ll train you up.
Start saving sooner
If you want to start saving money for your future or just so you can afford nice things then you’ll be able to as you’ll regularly be earning a decent sum of money. I have an archive of ways to save money if you’re looking for any extra tips!
On the topic of saving money, it’s now the law that every employer in the UK must offer you a workplace pension. Although you’re still young, it will benefit you to start your pension as early as possible. Even if you only put in £2 per month.
Sense of personal achievement
For me, because I worked at a corporate company in a lovely big open plan office, I felt a huge sense of personal achievement. The “Wow, I’ve made it!” feeling definitely set in and although I hadn’t and still haven’t ‘made it’ yet, I like to think that I’ve had a pretty good start to my career!
Possibility of a job
Okay, doing an apprenticeship doesn’t guarantee you a job afterwards, it neither does university. It completely depends on if your employer can afford to keep you on, your performance and so many other factors.
Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t able to stay on after my apprenticeship due to the company budgets not allowing another person in the team I wanted to be in. Luckily though, I got a new permanent role elsewhere pretty much straight away and they accepted me based on the experience and skills I had gained from my apprenticeship.
I truly believe that as long as you come across well in interviews and you can prove that you’re good at what you do, the experience you’ve gained as an apprentice will eventually land you a job.
The cons (disadvantages):
Missing out on ‘uni life’
One of the main disadvantages of doing an apprenticeship is you’ll be missing out on the university life. However, if you’re like me and don’t like excessively drinking and going out all the time then this probably won’t bother you.
If I really wanted to join in on the university life then I knew I could go and visit my friends on weekends and go out with them.
Being much younger than colleagues
I was the first ever apprentice that my company had taken on, so I was the youngest in my office (possibly the youngest in the whole company). Although, I was quite lucky that I had colleagues in their mid and late 20’s so I didn’t feel super young. The age gap would be brought up every now and again but it was amusing how some of my colleagues had been working for the company since before I was born!
In my current job, I’m the youngest by about 10 years. This isn’t really a problem for me because I get along with people of all ages but it would sometimes be nice to have someone a similar age to me.
Expected to keep it up and do well
Because I have a ‘good job’ and have started my career path at the age of 18, other people expect me to keep it up and do well my whole life. Of course, the aim is to always do well but when somebody else (especially somebody who you don’t really know) starts telling you where you could be in 10 years time it’s quite daunting.
To conclude, as you can see I’ve listed many more good things than bad things. There are probably many more pros and cons of doing an apprenticeship but these are the main ones I’ve experienced.
Most of the cons are things that other people assume about me and I’ve never let that bother me too much because like I mentioned in the intro of this post, this is MY career, not theirs.
If you’re considering an apprenticeship and this post has helped you, let me know by leaving a comment below or tagging me @studentskint on social media:
Also, if you’re a student or young adult and want to learn ways to make money, save money and enjoy life on a budget then make sure you sign up to my newsletter below. I sometimes run weekly challenges to help you make or save more money and I notify you every now and again of new blog posts that might interest you:
If you didn’t achieve the grades you were hoping, don’t worry. Read this blog post by Jo at A Rose Tinted World.
My recommended apprentice providers:
Just like job agencies, there are many apprenticeship agencies that you can sign up to and who provide the apprenticeship learning. They let you know of apprenticeships that might interest you and help you to apply, all for free!
Here’s a short list of the agencies I had contact with when looking for an apprenticeship, if you apply to them, don’t forget to mention that I (Katie Schulten) recommended them to you!
- Arch – (they offer a huge selection of apprenticeships) based in London, this was my apprenticeship provider
- 3aaa – (they offer a huge selection of apprenticeships) based all around the UK
- QA Apprenticeships (IT, Digital Marketing & Business) – based all around the UK
- You can also apply to some apprenticeships directly on the employer’s website. If there’s a certain company you’d to work for then take a look at their ‘career’ page on their website and apply directly.