If you’ve seen the news about student loan interest hitting an eye-watering 12%, you may be wondering whether a degree is really worth all that money. For many people the answer will be yes – after all, graduate level learning is key to securing many higher paying jobs, and can be a hugely rewarding experience. But that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. Those who hit the following criteria might want to consider other options for post-college learning:
- You’re not comfortable picking up high amounts of debt at such an early point in your career
- You don’t need a degree in order to pursue your preferred career path
- You don’t find classroom-based learning particularly enjoyable or fulfilling
If these points sound familiar, then one great alternative could be an apprenticeship.
At the most basic level, apprenticeships mean on-the-job learning. Typically companies will hire apprentices on a low wage, and in return dedicate part of your working schedule to education and training rather than labour. Traditionally, apprenticeships have been a great route into skilled manual jobs. Think everything from plumbing to stonemasonry. These days, apprenticeships also cover a more diverse range of job roles, including things like digital marketing, software development and health/care assistance.
Here are some of the reasons that you might want to consider an apprenticeship:
- You have a clear career goal. Apprenticeships are not throwaway jobs that you should do when you’re not sure about your next step. Rather, they give you a straightforward route into a profession, usually with a specific job role in mind. It will require a lot of hard work and extracurricular studying, so you need to be sure that you’re interested in this field of work.
- You want to start earning as soon as possible. While degrees cost you money, apprenticeships allow you to start earning a wage right from day one. Alongside entitlement to the National Minimum Wage, you’ll also get other employee perks such as the right to paid annual leave and statutory sick pay.
- You’re over 16, an English resident and not in full time education. These are the basic eligibility criteria that all apprentices need to meet.
Applying for an apprenticeship
Have we sold you on the idea of learning your trade as an apprentice? If so it’s easy to start looking for opportunities and applying. Most job-hunting websites such as Indeed and Total Jobs will list plenty of vacancies in your area. You can also contact firms directly to find out whether they have an apprentice scheme.
In most cases, the employer will be looking for some evidence of knowledge/enthusiasm about your chosen area. This might include a college course, related hobbies, or even just evidence that you have read up on the industry. The amount of experience needed will depend on the level of the apprenticeship. Levels 2 and 3 are equivalent to GCSE and A-levels, so a general interest and eagerness to learn should be enough. As you move into the higher levels, employers will typically be looking for someone with more practical knowledge.
Applying for an apprenticeship is just like any other job. You’ll need a CV and a brief covering statement explaining why you want the role. This can seem daunting, but it needn’t be! You’ve chosen to apply for this apprenticeship for a reason – perhaps because you think you’ll be good at it, or because it’s something you’ve always been interested in. Share this information through your covering statement to give your potential employer a sense of who you are and what you could bring to the team.
For more information on apprenticeships and how they work, check out the government website.