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Apprenticeships: finding a scheme that works for you

Posted on: 14 Aug 2018, admin

It’s August, which only means one thing for thousands of young hopeful, worried and nervous teens all across the UK: GCSE results. This nail-biting, palm-sweating and hand-trembling time will either be cause for concern or cause for celebration (hopefully the latter). But fear not – it’s important to remember the numerous career paths and options open to students, regardless of ones ability and skill-set.

Here at Ascendant Recruitment we’ve used our extensive knowledge and created a blog series to help advise and encourage students and parents who may be experiencing post-GCSE anxiety. Each blog will target a specific area of employment for young people, so whether it’s work experience placements or remote learning and badged courses, there are plenty of opportunities for young people who seek alternative routes to university and college.

This week, we’re focusing specifically on apprenticeships and why they can be an effective career path for students. To begin, let’s take a look at some key statistics. In 2016 and 2017 alone, there were 491,300 apprenticeship starts in the UK. This may sound like an impressive figure, however, numbers have fallen by 18,100 when compared with the previous year. It’s likely this is partially due to funding changes and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in May 2017.

Recently, The Open University Business Barometer, which observes the skills landscape of the UK, revealed a major shortage in skills (within the UK labour market) and a significant deficiency this past year alone. Corporate Director of the OU, David Willett, explains that skills shortages are costing UK businesses £6.3 billion. This large figure highlights the need for more skills-based courses and schemes, such as apprenticeships. Training is key here. Employers should provide employees with adequate training to support their growth as individuals. This incentivises loyalty and progression within the business, too.

Studies have shown that most apprenticeships are in the service sectors. This includes Public Health Services and Care; Business; Administration and Law; Retail and Commercial Enterprise; and Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies. The number of apprenticeship starts by women has risen significantly over the last few years. In 2016/17, 54% of apprenticeship starts were by women.

So what are apprenticeships and the main benefits of practical, skills-based training? Apprenticeships are available to those who have reached the legal school-leaving age, which varies across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They both encourage and promote the development of practical (applied) skills in the workplace. Apprenticeships provide an alternative route for those who are less-academically minded and allow trainees to earn as they learn.

There are three categories or levels of apprenticeship available, which reflect the trainees’ skill set and qualifications. These are: Intermediate Apprenticeship (Level 2); Advanced Apprenticeship (Level 3); and Higher Apprenticeship (Level 4 and above). Once completed, trainees will gain a nationally-recognised qualification which are now available up to degree level and above.

But what about the trainees that have graduated? What happens after the training has been completed? In our experience, recruiters are far more likely to hire an apprentice who has successfully completed their training to a high standard, as opposed to a student who has two poor A-levels under their belt. If this is something that interests you, we recommend researching apprenticeship schemes, real-life case studies or speaking to a current or past apprentice about their own experience as a trainee.

Finally, although AS and A-levels may seem like natural progression from GCSE’s, it’s important to think carefully about your own strengths, personal interests and whether you’d be better suited to a practical training course. Although it might be tempting to take the conventional route in academia, there are a number of exceptional and well-paid apprenticeship schemes and placements in a number of sectors, that can truly kick-start your career.

For more information, visit Gov.Uk or The Apprenticeship Guide for useful resources including current vacancies. If you’re a university graduate and looking for guidance on graduate schemes, then see our recent Q&A for expert advice.