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Kelly Ball

Positive Outcomes


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Apprenticeships: Common myths explained


Kelly Ball explains why apprenticeship schemes are a great career path, and talks through the common myths of apprenticeships.

It’s no secret that many industries are facing a skills shortage. In fact, a recent survey by merchant bank Close brothers showed 31% of UK SMEs said their workforce lacked the skills needed by their business. 

The Conservative government is keen to address this skills shortage and increase the number of apprenticeships. During the Autumn Statement George Osborne referred to apprenticeships as the ‘cornerstone of the skills system.’

And now, with the introduction of the apprenticeship levy set for April 2017, the government will be working with UK businesses closer than ever before, as well as training providers to help deliver the additional high quality apprenticeships that our economy needs.

Apprenticeships then will become an even more rewarding career path. It’s no secret that in the past apprenticeships carried with them a slight stigma - but that is changing. So I’d thought I’d explain a few common misconceptions:

Apprenticeships are for people who aren’t that clever and just wanting to get into the construction industry

Definitely not. Major UK companies from an array of sectors are all creating apprenticeship schemes.

In fact, in August the Office for National Statistics (ONS) hailed digital apprenticeships as the key to rapid business growth. Apprenticeships are an excellent career route, with plenty of variety. 

Apprenticeships offer poor pay

The National minimum wage for apprentices was just recently increased (October). The current minimum wage is now £3.30 per hour, but many employers are willing to pay a lot more than that, so it’s worth seeing what is out there.

Like with any job, employers want the best people possible, so are happy to pay more if it secures young talent.

Apprenticeships are not a real job

Not true. Most apprenticeships are full-time, and apprentices are treated like any other employee. After all, in an ever-changing world, especially when it comes to digital, young individuals are full of ideas, and enthusiastic.

Employers really do value this, so apprentices play a vital role in any company.

An apprenticeship won’t be good for my CV or future career

Absolutely not true. Work experience is valued very highly amongst many employers. Having experience out in the real world really provides a head start.

People earn more money after University, than spending three years in an apprenticeship

Higher education is currently still the most popular choice for school leavers, however this also means higher competition for jobs when it comes to graduation. When talking to people about their university days, the main thing you hear is the social side, not the work side of things.

The truth is that university and apprenticeships are different, but equally valid choices. However, with an apprenticeship participants are being paid to learn. So no bad debts. Plus, there’s a big opportunity to walk into a full-time job when finished.

An apprenticeship also provides that business ‘know how’, something that can’t be taught in a classroom. Jamie Oliver, Henry Ford, Sir Alex Ferguson all started life as an apprentice – and they’ve done ok.

The costs of doing an apprenticeship are prohibitive

Apprenticeships are paid for by the government and the employer. Apprentices don’t have to pay a thing, but get paid, which makes apprenticeships financially attractive.

Doing an apprenticeship means being stuck in that industry for life

Of course not. A lot of skills picked up during an apprenticeship will be transferable. Plus, just being in a business environment will help apprentices understand how business really works. Once an apprenticeship is finished it’s possible to apply to work anywhere, but with that extra boost of confidence having been out there and done it.

Apprenticeships don’t provide qualifications

Probably one of the biggest misconceptions this one. All apprenticeships must include an element of training, which will lead to some form of qualification. In England, there are three levels of apprenticeships, which each lead to different levels of qualifications:

  1. Intermediate – equivalent to 5 GCSE passes
  2. Advanced – equivalent to 2 A-level passes
  3. Higher – lead to NVQ level 4 (equivalent to a professional certificate/diploma/HNC) and above or a foundation degree (level 5)
  4. Businesses now have to pay a tax when taking on an apprentice so are put off by the idea

The Government will be introducing an apprenticeship levy, but businesses (will only affect 2% of UK companies) who pay the levy and are committed to apprenticeship training, will be able to get out more than they pay into the levy.

Whilst all employers who do not pay the levy will be able to access government support for apprenticeships.

One of the main reasons for the apprenticeship levy is to create more quality apprenticeships. So apprentices will be presented with even better apprenticeship options.

Businesses aren’t taking on apprentices

This couldn’t be any further from the truth. The Government has pledged to create another 3m apprenticeships in the next five years. If anything, this is now the best time to go for an apprenticeship.

Kelly Ball, is joint managing director of Positive Outcomes, a national training provider specialising in Government-funded apprenticeships. Kelly is also joint managing director of Paid To Learn, a dedicated website for apprenticeship vacancies and careers advice for young people aged 16-18 in the UK


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