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National Apprenticeship Week: Dispelling the myths about apprenticeships

February 6, 2023
This National Apprenticeship Week (NAW), we want to take the opportunity to highlight the positive impact that apprenticeships can have on individuals, businesses, and the wider economy.

All the more so, amid the publication of statistics by the Department for Education recently, revealing a 3% decrease on apprenticeship starts this year, compared with pre-pandemic levels (2019).

Apprentices often enjoy quicker career progression, as well as enjoying the ability to learn skills for life, all whilst earning a good wage, which made us wonder why apprenticeship take-up is on the decline.

Could it be to do with a lack of awareness and historic myths and misconceptions around apprenticeships as a valid career route?

It’s certainly possible, and that’s why we want to take the opportunity to dispel some of the more common myths, as our People Operations Manager, Rachael Harrison-Wood discusses.

Apprenticeships are just for trades/vocations (electricians, plumbers, chefs)

Wrong!

It is possible to do an apprenticeship in a whole host of jobs, from office administration and engineering to property / surveying and marketing.

So, whether you want a career in finance or HR, or you want to become an occupational or physical therapist, there are apprenticeship schemes out there for you!

Discover more about what’s available near you, here.

Apprenticeships are for people who aren’t ‘academically inclined’

Apart from obvious nonsense of what the phrase ‘academically inclined’ means, apprenticeships can take you all the way to a full undergraduate degree or master’s degree – the exact same degree that you would do outside of an apprenticeship course.

Apprentices are there to make the brews

Nonsense!

Apprenticeship schemes have evolved to become much more formal affairs over the years, with a specific qualification route and core deliverables – both from the employer, and apprentice side.

Employers today ensure that their apprentices reap value from the scheme, undertaking valuable tasks, with core responsibilities in just the same way as anyone would do, if they were coming into a role with a qualification already.

Indeed, some apprentices already have degrees, but are embracing a career change via the apprentice route.

Of course, the level of responsibility is commensurate with the experience of the particular person, and this will ramp up as they gain more knowledge and experience in the role. At Vail Williams, this means going out to do property inspections themselves, not making the tea – or at least no more than the rest of us would!

Apprenticeships are only for 16-18 year olds

There is a pre-conceived view that apprenticeships are just for those not wanting to go on to further or higher education – school leavers. However, there is actually no upper age limit for apprenticeships!

Some people get a degree in one area, do a master’s and then decide that that particular career is not for them, before exploring the apprenticeship route as they continue their career journey.

Apprenticeship doesn’t lead to a ‘real’ qualification

In a degree apprenticeship you get a degree. This is of exactly the same value as a degree attained outside an apprenticeship.

You get all the accompanying pomp and ceremony too – a certificate, a graduation, a cap and gown, the ability to put letters after your name. It’s the same, except you get to earn a wage at the same time! Speaking of which….

Apprenticeships are just unpaid internships

Apprenticeships are paid!

From 1 April 2023 the minimum wage for an Apprentice aged under 19 (or 19+ but in their first year of apprenticeship) is £5.28 per hour, and the average salary for a first-year apprentice is £28,000 in the UK.

Apprenticeships are for people new to a business, not existing staff

Existing staff are also eligible for apprenticeships, as well as businesses hiring people in to start as an apprentice within the firm. There are some contractual specifics, but all the normal employee and apprentice rules and laws apply, so don’t rule it out.

Apprenticeships aren’t ‘proper jobs’

In actual fact, some might argue that an apprenticeship is, arguably, more difficult than ‘just a job’. Alongside doing a job with real roles and responsibilities, apprentices have to train and achieve a qualification too.

So, apprentices work just as hard as anyone else, and can often progress quicker because of the experience they have on the ground in their role, throughout their training.

The apprenticeship route is a male dominated path

Not anymore!

Apprentices can go into almost any sector and more and more women are taking up the opportunity.

50% of our apprentices are women – this is particularly important in a sector which has historically suffered with a lack of diversity.

We have had a number of apprentices successfully compete their qualification and move onto permanent roles – both with us, and outside of our doors.

To find out more about what life as a Vail Williams apprentice, and for some helpful tips and advice if you are considering this career route, listen to Henry Bourne’s story.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in joining Vail Williams as an apprentice, get in touch to find out more at humanresources@vailwilliams.com