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Posted on 26 August 2021

What is an apprenticeship?

So, what is an apprenticeship? Well, in essence, apprenticeships provide an opportunity to combine study with practical ‘on the job training. As an apprentice, you’ll spend around 80% of your time working your chosen role and the other 20% learning with a College, University, or training provider. Apprenticeships typically last between 1-6 years and are open to anyone aged 16 and over.

Why choose an apprenticeship?
Focused

An apprenticeship provides a great opportunity to focus your learning within a very specific area. If you know what you’re good at or the career path you’d like to follow, an apprenticeship is a perfect way to develop the exact skills and experience necessary for a given role.

Earning

As an apprentice, you can earn while you learn. Unlike College or University, you’ll earn a wage as you progress through your apprenticeship.

Qualifications

With part of your time spent studying, there is an opportunity for you to earn a recognised qualification upon successful completion of your apprenticeship. The exact qualification or level gained will vary depending on the exact type of apprenticeship you embark on, so it’s worth checking when making decisions around the right programme for you.

No fees

Unlike University, there are no fees involved with apprenticeships. Currently, the average University student can expect to accrue a whopping £35,000 of debt following their studies.

A foot in the door

As you’ll spend most of your time working within a given business, you’ll have the opportunity to build relationships and connections that can stand you in good stead as you conclude your apprenticeship and look for employment. Furthermore, many apprentices secure permanent employment with their host employer following the conclusion of their study.

The downsides (there’s always a but)
Not available for all career paths

Due to the nature of apprenticeships, not all careers fit the mould. Some careers will require a more specific qualification, becoming a vet for example will require specific medical qualifications.

Too focused?

While the laser focus of an apprenticeship can be appealing if you have a career path in mind, the opposite can be true if you’re still a little unsure where your strengths lie or the career you’d like to pursue. Also, because apprenticeships focus on specific job roles, they often don’t cover broader topics like art, ethics or history.

Time-consuming

Because apprenticeships encompass both employment and learning, they can be incredibly hard work. Balancing your time between study and work can be a task in itself and an essential skill to develop.

Different experience

Apprenticeships offer a very different experience to other further education options such as College and University. While some of these differences fall in the pro’s column, some will feel like a major downside. For some, College and University offer the chance to live independently for the first time, experience a new place and let’s face it, party as much as possible. If you’re susceptible to the fear of missing out, the apprenticeship experience may feel sorely lacking.

Another key difference is downtime. Where College and University operate term time, meaning generous breaks during the Summer, apprenticeships continue year-round.


All apprenticeship opportunities are listed on the national government website here.

If you’re still not sure whether an apprenticeship is for you, speak to one of our impartial advisors for free advice and support.