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Is An Apprenticeship Right For Me?
Year on year, apprenticeships are increasing in popularity, with the number of school leavers opting to do them growing all the time. Along with school leaver programmes, they are more and more being seen as a genuine alternative to taking yourself off to university to study full time for an honours degree. Earn while you learn is a magnetic phrase, especially for those young school leavers who are worried that further study at university is just too much debt to take on. The cost of university is increasing all the time and this is forcing some young people to have a rethink and decide if there are realistic alternatives out there.

Well, the good news is, those who do not want to go to university now have viable options that are no longer about having to plump for second best. These days, just because you have come to the conclusion that university is out for you (for whatever reasons), the notion that you can't enjoy a successful career because of that, no longer exists. Combining hands on training in the workplace with classroom based study and a salary is now an attractive option and the modern apprenticeship route is proving to be very successful for both school leavers and employers.

So, if you are reading this article, the chances are you are now considering your future career options and deciding whether the A-level and / or university route is right for you. Well, there is lots of information for you on E4S which should go a long way in helping you to make an informed decision about which path to take. We've already asked the question, "Is a school leaver programme right for me", and we've compared and contrasted school leaver programmes and apprenticeship vacancies so now it's time to ask yourself the question, "Is an apprenticeship right for me?"
Do You Know What An Apprenticeship Is?
That's not as silly a question as it looks. The only way you are going to know if taking on an apprenticeship is right for you is if you know the ins and outs of what you will be expected from you and the qualifications and skills you will receive in return for all your hard work.

Apprenticeships are a key part of the government's push to make sure young people under the age of 25 are in work and receiving quality training so that the United Kingdom has a high skill set in a whole range of specialisms. The UK wants to keep its place amongst the leading economies in the world and the government sees increasing the number of apprenticeship vacancies as one way of contributing to that.

Slowly, slowly, apprenticeships are shaking themselves off from their blue collar image and now have a dynamic, vibrant image that attracts school leavers into a variety of professions. So you don't need to be thinking you have to want to be an electrician or a master builder to do an apprenticeship. Want to work in law, finance, retail or beauty? Yes, you can do an apprenticeship in so many sectors these days.

There are three different levels of apprenticeship available to school leavers and young people: The intermediate apprenticeship, the advanced apprenticeship and higher apprenticeships. If this is all news to you and you want to know the differences between higher apprenticeships and advanced apprenticeships along with the corresponding requirements for entry, then head on over to read our article, What Is An Apprenticeship?
An Apprenticeship Means You Get Paid While You Develop Your Expertise
It depends on your age (the national minimum wage for those under 19s doing an apprenticeship is less than that of those doing other types of work) and it also depends on the company you are working for and the sector you are specialising in, but an apprenticeship vacancy is tempting for school leavers because it means you will be getting paid while you are being trained. In some cases, this can be highly specialised training, too, where you develop in demand skills that make you more employable in future.

But what about study fees?
Again, it depends on your age and the company you work for but while you are earning your apprenticeship wages, your study could also be funded. Those aged 16 to 18 years old will have this funded by the government in full so it will not cost you a penny. Great news; this means you will be earning a wage and benefitting from funded study. If you are aged between 19 and 24 years old, your employer can claim 50% of the costs from the government and they may fund the rest of your study for you. It's worth bearing in mind that if you are trying to decide whether a UK apprenticeship is right for you, you might be expected to contribute towards this. If this is going to be a deal breaker for you, check with your potential employer first. And if you are 25 years old or older then you will earn a wage but your employer, or yourself, may have to pay the fees for the whole apprenticeship.

These age limits and funding levels are set by the government and are guidelines for employers who are thinking about taking on an apprentice. Do your research on the companies you are interested in and don't be afraid to ask your potential future employer about your wage and funding. You'll be pleased to know that many employers, particularly larger companies, choose to pay above the minimum pay scales that are outlined, thereby boosting your apprenticeship wages which are not covered by the government.
Are You Ready For The Workplace?
Are leaving school with or without GCSEs? Have you completed your A-levels or are you midway through your A-levels and are wavering over whether to continue? Have you started a university degree and it's just not going well for you and you want to change route? Before you jump ship and leave full time study, just ask yourself honestly, are you really ready for the workplace and are you really ready to commit to a specialism that an apprenticeship will give you. If the last thing you want is more full time academic study and you're shouting, "Yes, yes, get me into the workplace, I've been dying to get stuck into my career for ages," then read on to find out if you could really shine in the future by doing a UK apprenticeship. If not, a traineeship might be a better option for you at the moment.
Are You Ready To Combine Work With Study?
Because doing an apprenticeship is not just about on the job training. You will not be abandoning your studies altogether because whichever level of UK apprenticeship you choose, there will be classroom based learning involved and qualifications to earn. Depending on the company you work for and the sector you are working in, this could be one day each week out of the work environment or you might do a block, lasting a few weeks or more.
Have You Thoroughly Researched The Types Of Apprenticeships That Are Out There?
The beauty of apprenticeships is that there is such a wide variety out there and chances are, you are going to be able to find an apprenticeship vacancy that is right up your street; something you can really get your teeth stuck into and commit to so that you can build a future career from it.

If you've got a rough idea of what you want to do or are convinced you have a skill or interest you want to develop, then thoroughly research apprenticeships around that sector - but also, don't dismiss other specialisms, too. Scan all the different types of UK apprenticeships young people can do because you never know, there may be an apprenticeship in something you haven't thought before about that more takes your fancy. We know it is impossible to predict the future but try not to look upon an apprenticeship as a stint in your life and then that's it. See your apprenticeship as the first step of your career ladder that you can continue to build from - can you see yourself shining in that type of career or similar in ten or twenty years time?

If you already have two A-levels or equivalent, then the way the UK apprenticeship system works means you can, in theory, go straight on to do higher apprenticeships, and maybe this is what you already have in mind. However, you could well find this limiting as some areas of specialism do not yet have higher apprenticeships available. In these cases, the advanced apprenticeship would be necessary. This is not necessarily a deal breaker because you can always continue to develop your career after your apprenticeship is completed by way of further study or in house training. Your company might even continue to fund this, depending on who you work for.

Types of Apprenticeships
The sheer diversity of UK apprenticeships on offer means that there should be an apprenticeship vacancy to suit the career aspirations of almost everyone. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but, just to give you a flavour of the number of apprenticeship opportunities available, here are just a few of the different types of UK apprenticeships you might be able to find:
Are you willing to relocate for your apprenticeship if you see the one that's right for you?
When you begin researching UK apprenticeship vacancies, you might find the ones you are really wanting to do are not available in the area where you live. For example, some of the larger companies might offer apprenticeships that are based in their head offices miles away from where you live. Obviously, this depends on the level of apprenticeship you are considering and the sector you are looking to work in but some young school leavers relocate to get the apprenticeship schemes they want, just as university students move away from home to get on the degree courses of their choice. If relocation is not an option for you, for whatever reason, then you need to narrow your research down to apprenticeships in your locality. Are there any suitable local apprenticeships right where you live?

As we said above, though, there is a huge range of UK apprenticeships out there within companies of all different shapes and sizes. Keep your options open and you could well find and be able to apply for apprenticeships in an area close to where you live.
Apprenticeships Give You Options In The Size Of Company You Want To Work For
Because the range of apprenticeships across the UK is so vast, they have a slight advantage over school leaver programmes at the moment because they give you a choice in the size of company you want to work for. Not everyone wants to go off and work for a major international corporation, for example. Maybe you like the idea of developing your career within a more intimate environment and local apprenticeships at a small family firm might give you the opportunity to do this.

Of course, that doesn't mean you need to write off the idea of doing an apprenticeship if you are keen to land a placement with one of the United Kingdom's top companies. Many larger companies offer young people the opportunity to do apprenticeships in a variety of specialisms, school leaver programmes, sponsored degrees and graduate career programmes. You could even find an apprenticeship vacancy that gives you the opportunity to work abroad in one of the company's overseas branches. The key is to do your research and find the most suitable apprenticeship for you.
Apprenticeships Develop Key Skills And Skills Specific To Your Specialism
Whatever type of apprenticeship you choose to do - from hairdressing and beauty to finance and accounting to engineering and IT, you will earn nationally recognised qualifications in key skills such as awareness of your rights in the workplace. Obviously, these are all valuable tools to take with you elsewhere if you move on to develop your career further elsewhere. Where you could find limitations is in the area you are specialising in.

A UK apprenticeship will develop specialised specific skills necessary for your profession; a fantastic opportunity if that is what you are committed to. However, if you decide further down the line that this is not the profession for you, chances are, you won't be able to put those highly specialised skills to use in future career paths. An apprenticeship is for those young people who are driven and committed to their future profession.
So, Is An Apprenticeship Right For You?

Your chance to be amongst the best
Well, just as if you went to university to be a full time student and study for a degree, by doing an apprenticeship, you are giving yourself a chance to be the best because you will receive high quality training both on the job and in a classroom situation. Even if you have few or no GCSEs (school based learning is not for all of us), there is opportunity for you to shine in your profession. You can start out by doing an intermediate apprenticeship and build your career from there. For those with 2 A-levels or more, higher apprenticeships are available in a variety of sectors and you can choose how you want to continue to progress upon completion.

Your chance of a more secure future and more earning potential
Studies have shown that those young people who have opted for the UK apprenticeship route are, on average, earning tens of thousands of pounds more in their lifetime than those in regular work. This is because you will have specialised skills that are in demand in your industry so, after completion, you can command a higher salary than the apprenticeship wages you started out with.

Also, because your skills are in demand, this more secures your future because it makes you more employable later on. Of course, you are also earning while you are learning and (in many cases) getting your study funded, so you are not building up student debt whilst studying at university.

As with school leaver programmes, all of this is well and good if you are driven, committed and know exactly what it is you want to do with your future career. Go out there and do it. And if you're unsure, don't worry because all is not lost. Browse the full apprenticeship vacancies list (you can see a full list of sectors here) to see if anything jumps out at you - and if it doesn't, why not just take on seasonal jobs such as working in summer camps or theme parks. Or you could find part time student jobs at evenings or weekends while you take time to think about your options. You never know, you may really enjoy one of these jobs and decide to progress your career in that field. The company you work for might even run part time apprenticeships, summer apprenticeships or school leaver programmes for young people - or they may even have their own career development programme.

The key thing to remember is, if you do want to find apprenticeship vacancies then, yes, go for it... And if you don't, you have always got other options.

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