Apprenticeships & EVERYTHING You Need To Know

Hey, beautiful people. You will be completely ambivalent to learn that I just finished my last official day at my current job and am currently walking on sunshine . . .  But I’m excited and, as I’m not entirely convinced that reality isn’t just one crazy big acid trip my brain’s concocted, my opinion is the one that matters.

Today, I thought I’d talk to you about one of the less traditional routes that you can take when leaving school – an apprenticeship. I finished mine back in September and stayed on for a few months, but I remember all the burning questions I had when I was trying to decide whether I wanted to continue college or leave. I have a good grasp of the pros, cons, stigmas, false ideas and all the rest. In fact, I’m in a pretty good position to help you out.

Apprenticeships are a route that school-leavers can take as an alternative to moving to the next step of education, or a foot in the door of a career path – or even as a gap year option. I know a lot of school leavers aren’t entirely sure what they want to do after high-school, or after college, but an apprenticeship is one of the options.

So let’s do this.

(Warning: this is gonna be an information dump. Go grab a cup of tea, or something.)

What is an apprenticeship?

A job where you can go in with no previous knowledge or qualifications and you’re trained on the job; usually aimed at school-leavers, apprenticeships offer qualifications that are equivalent to GCSEs or A-Levels.

Why do people get an apprenticeship?

There are a lot of reasons that people get apprenticeships.

  • Didn’t do too well in their exams. A good thing about apprenticeships is that you don’t need good exam results to get one. All you need is a good work ethic; a lot of school-leavers that didn’t get the grades they wanted, or have decided education isn’t for them, will move into an apprenticeship.
  • Amazing opportunities. Now, there are some truly amazing apprenticeships out there (they’re competitive, admittedly, and good grades are a boost) – apprenticeships in marketing agencies in central London, places like the BBC, etc. An apprenticeship can be an in to a great company – and it can open a lot of doors. Remember, you’re there for a year and they need to train (and pay) you for all that time – which means that by the time the apprenticeship is over, you’re an asset to your company and they’ll want to keep you.
  • The money. It’s not as easy as people and parents like to make out for entry-level people to find jobs in this market. An apprenticeship can be a good way to earn money.
  • Get onto the career ladder. As I mentioned in the previous point, an apprenticeship usually comes with a permanent placement. If you want to get a job, this can be a good way to go.
  • Good option for a year out or a gap year.
  • Gain some work experience before progressing to the next step of education. 
  • Test out your chosen field. You may have ideas for your dream career path – but, while you’re in education, you will have no idea what the actual day-to-day of that career path is like. You might absolutely hate it. An apprenticeship is a good way to test out a career; if it isn’t for you, you have a qualification and some extra money anyway.
  • Gives you work experience in your chosen field before forking out £27k on a university degree. This is actually a very large reason that I recommend apprenticeships; it was very re-affirming for me to work in my chosen field for a year. I’ve realised that I love it enough to fork out a degree to learn more about it, yes – but I’ve also realised that I want to do it in a more high-stakes environment up in central London, where I need a degree just to get an interview.
  • Hell, just work experience.
  • You don’t test well. If you’re smart – but you just don’t test well – an NVQ is a work and evidence-based qualification which is a great fit.

Is the qualification you get with an apprenticeship any good?

In all honesty, it depends. Depending on the level, an NVQ is equivalent to GCSEs or A-Levels – however, if you’re planning to go into the world of academia, it may not be the qualification for you.

In my opinion (as in take it with a pinch of salt) there are two main uses for an NVQ:

  • You’re in a situation where you don’t need any qualifications. My best friend, Olly, wants to be a plumber – he’s done his apprenticeship year and is now moving to full time. If he wanted to move to another plumbing business (or, for example, a shop like my dad’s where they sell plumbing kit) he wouldn’t need a qualification – but the training and experience he’s received makes him a great hire.
  • You’re in a situation where experience and evidence is equal to or more valuable than a qualification. This is more my situation; while I do want to go on to do higher education, my course is graphic design and the weight is on the portfolio – not the A-grade. I need a qualification . . .  but having an equivalent is good enough. There are a lot of courses like this so if you’re in a situation where they’re looking more at what skills you possess, an NVQ is a great qualification.

Although an NVQ is an equivalent qualification . . . it isn’t the original. Some universities accept NVQs – but some don’t. I’d recommend looking at your university of choice (if you’re going down that route) first.

Are apprenticeships just for people that drop out?

Not at all. I didn’t drop out – I actually had really good grades! An apprenticeship doesn’t need to be shunning school; you can always go back.

For me, there were a few reasons that I got an apprenticeship; the main being:

I felt like I was wasting time.

I’m a productive human being; if I’m not, it’s because I’m deep in the clutches of depression and melancholy (and, y’know, Netflix) and I’ll break out of it in a week or two and be productive. I’ve run blogs and a string of sometimes-successful online stores since I was 13; nurtured and hatched schemes and dastardly plans since I was in the pram.

The words “proactive” and “self-motivated” are not just buzzwords that I put on my CV; I need to be doing something fulfilling and worthwhile. My main issues with school came from this; everything felt so pointless. It was such a waste of could-be-much-better-spent time.

Now, I thought college would be my saviour – I’d be studying more direct subjects that I loved and would get me where I wanted to be in life! I could refine my skills; learn more of them!

Yeah, no, that didn’t happen.

I spent my days travelling an hour and a half to a college that cancelled a bunch of lessons and didn’t do much when I was in them anyway. Add in the fact that it was costing me £5 a day just to get there . . . The whole college route, it quickly became clear, was not for me.

I highly value education (hence the travelling so far) and the opportunities it brings, so I looked at my goal universities, checked what requirements they needed and realised that I had options. As I wanted to do a course in graphic design/branding, they placed more weight on experience, passion and a portfolio – not getting 3 A-C A-level results. So I realised that I could do an apprenticeship, gain invaluable experience, go to uni and once I left uni I’d already have work experience under my belt.

Not too shabby.

Is apprenticeship pay any good?

It’s okay, depending on where you work, your skills, the company you work for and the level of apprenticeship you’re going for. A Level 3 pays better than a Level 2, for example. If you’re having dreams of leaving home and living in a swanky apartment by yourself, you should really check those expectations at the door – but you’ll have a good amount to save and spend.

Are apprenticeships only in plumbing and manual labour?

Hell no! This, I will admit, is what I initially thought – otherwise I probably would’ve done an apprenticeship straight out of high school.

You can find apprenticeships in everything from marketing to childcare.

My apprenticeship was in Digital Marketing; I was originally going to try for a graphic design one, but I left it very late and there weren’t any available when I looked.

The pros of an apprenticeship

  • A lot more maturity and perspective on life. I admit this probably sounds rather weird to most people, but how many kids straight out of high school have a real grip on life? This isn’t at all a negative, but you honestly can’t appreciate the value of work and money and responsibility until you’ve actually experienced it. Having a full-time 9-5 job will force you to grow up and mature real quick – which can be an amazing thing!
  • Work experience. Just having the work experience behind you can be such a confidence boost; you can go off to uni knowing “I can work after this”. You can speak at interviews comfortably; you’re prepared for the working world.
  • Looks great on your CV.
  • Earning money. Hey – money is always great, right? Even better when you’re being paid to learn!
  • You don’t need to know anything going in. How many times have you wanted to go for a job . . . but worried about not having the right skills? Not knowing what you’re doing? As an apprentice, you don’t need to know anything going in.

The cons of an apprenticeship

  • Badly paid. Some people use apprentices for cheap labour; that’s just the truth of the matter. Unless you’ve got existing skills, you can be looking at a rather depressingly low wage.
  • B O R I N G. Not to be negative, but . . . going from school and friends to working 9-5 in an office, barely seeing your friends because your calendars completely clash (you’ll find most of your friends will work at the weekends) and being surrounded by serious, mature adults is boring. Just keeping it real, kids.
  • Depending where you go, you could end up just making tea and coffee. One of the biggest cons I’d say an apprenticeship has is how dependent it is on your employer; you might end up working in a tiny company that’s just looking for cheap labour that doesn’t teach you much of anything and don’t pay you well.
  • The qualification isn’t very strong. If you’re looking to do an apprenticeship for the qualification . . . I wouldn’t.

Did you enjoy your apprenticeship?

All in all, yes I did.

I gained invaluable experience and learned a lot – and gained so much confidence and maturity! Honestly, I can’t imagine doing any of the amazing stuff I’ve done this year without doing my apprenticeship; it helped me to grow up and budget, save, travel and work harder (and smarter).

Do I have qualms about it? Yes, I do.

I don’t think my provider did very well – the lessons weren’t fantastic and the support was dismal. I think I did well with my employer because I had a history in content marketing and creation (on my old site that was sold earlier this year), but had I not had that experience I think it would have been a total flop as my employer doesn’t have any marketing experience and was relying on the Apprenticeship hub . . . who weren’t great.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship?

 100 x yes.

I’m aware that everyone says it to us (and we then don’t believe it because our schools drill the complete opposite into our heads) but work experience is far more important than grades. I truly value education, don’t let that sentence fool you, but after working full time for a year I can see all the ways in which work experience is more important to an employer.

If you said to me, I have an A* English student that wants to join your content team and a person that’s been working in content marketing for a year, I’m going for number two every time.

The ability to work in a work environment; meet deadlines and targets; be part of a team; be professional; separate personal and professional life; be a grown up . . . these are all skills that you can imagine yourself to have, that you can prepare for, be told about when you’re in a classroom, but until you’re in a working environment and you have to knuckle down and do it, you do not have the opportunity to really test and learn. 

In my opinion, an apprenticeship is like a full-time job with training wheels; a safety net. You’re being trained (and paid!), you then have an all-but-guaranteed position in the business you train with and not only that but you’re being educated at the same time. It looks good when you’re applying to university; it looks good when you’re applying for other jobs.

If you’ve just left school and you aren’t quite sure what to do with yourself, or you’re taking a gap year and are kind of unsure as to what you’re going to do during it, an apprenticeship could definitely be for you! Hell, some of them even put you through uni.

That said . . . I’m happy to be free. 3 day work weeks, more time (and energy) to spend doing things I love and the better pay all make for a heady combination. My blog, as I’d love to think you all notice, is doing all the better for it! I’ve got a new job lined up for January with one of the people I’ve been freelancing for and December is going to spent travelling! Who can complain?

Anyways, would any of you try an apprenticeship? Do you have any questions about it that I could help you clear up? Let me know your thoughts down below!


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30 thoughts on “Apprenticeships & EVERYTHING You Need To Know”

    1. I wish my school hadn’t pushed us for lots of grades and instead told us about apprenticeships. I thought they were only for manual labour types, because my boyfriend is an apprentice joiner, but now I know there are so many apprenticeships out there! I would much rather I looked into them because education feels so pointless to me but oh well. I’m in college right now and I’m hoping to do an internship afterwards for the experience and I can’t wait! I loved this post btw, really helpful!x

      1. Me too! I only learnt about it in college because i was looking into alternate routes and I came across it… if you are interested in them, you can still do them after college. I met one of my best friends at the apprenticeship hub and he’s a year older; he got his A-Levels, did his apprenticeship and went to uni. Plus, because he had A-Levels as opposed to just GCSEs, he got paid more 😉 I’m so glad you found this helpful; I was hoping it could help a couple of people. They’re actually a really good option (especially for a gap year) so it’s such a shame nobody talks about them more xx

        1. I think the same, apprenticeships give you valuable experience and a bit of cash too and it gets you out of typical education for at least a year so I hope schools start to suggest them more:)x

        1. Thank you lovely! And awesome – I wish I’d known about them sooner, I think I would’ve done one a year earlier too 🙂 I hope people do; most people I speak to don’t really think they’re a viable path/option so hopefully this can help em out! xxxx

      2. I probably should have left school to get an apprenticeship in the army. My school pushed me to be a lawyer and row at Henley. When I got glandular fever and removed myself from school my folks must have been on of the rare cases in over 150 years of the school where school fees were refunded.
        I actually liked working with wood. I guess the local police only knew our workshop was used by borders to educate new students in the bording houses. I guess the police back then were frightened of some parents there.
        Actually glad I dropped out of school. Went to uni mature age at 25 and excelled because I wanted to be there. No point making anyone do anything they don’t want to. Harvey Weinstein and friends would have loved the boys club here. Got to say as a sportsman in any competition I have been in I have that character on the field even if it is getting it out of myself.
        What am I saying… I was at my mate’s place before and was playing marbles with his 2 year old. I won. I figured I might have disappointed the kid if I didn’t win and win well.

      3. Not really. His 2 year old daughter beat me but I don’t really like it being known someone has me worked out.

          1. Sorry. Had a bad spell yesterday. Someone I work with has had a bad couple of weeks. At least Watford losing to United was not as bad as the loss to City. 😃 Just slept a while and storm coming which ends extended heat. Dreams fairly revealing too. People turned up in dreams I wouldn’t have thought would. In fact I haven’t been dreaming much for at least a year.
            Sorry apprenticeship… Fantasia… the sorcerers apprentice???? 😄🤣🤣🤥😴

          1. Aw I’m so glad that you found this helpful! Honestly, if you’re interested in one, it’s probably the best thing I could’ve done. I learnt so much and got so many opportunities from it 🙂 If you have any questions about it, feel free to ask 🙂 xx

          2. This was such an insightful post!! We have the same attitude to apprenticeships here in Australia and if I didn’t love my uni course as much as I do that would definitely be my route of choice. xx

            1. Thank you so much 🙂 Yeah, over here they’re really looked down on and the general consensus is that they’re for people that have dropped out, but they’re a really good pathway! And asdfghjkl I’m so excited for university! xx

              1. Basically the same attitude here, I love uni! Especially when you’re doing what you love, which is ultimately the most important thing xx

            2. That sounds so cool! Might consider this since applying to uni right now is so stressful for me! 😣 what’s exactly did you do as a digital marketing intern? Sounds very cool 👌

              1. Honestly, I genuinely would recommend doing one as a gap year before going to uni. Absolutely invaluable experience. And thank you!

                So basically, Digital Marketing where I was “enrolled” has a couple of different branches – there’s like data analytics, content marketing, graphics, web design and building etc. The whole idea is that there are some broad units (eg. using voucher sites like wowcher and groupon etc. and adwords and paid promotion may be in one unit) that everyone does so that you get an overview for digital marketing, then you have elective courses (which are chosen and assigned to you by your employer and the apprenticeship place) such as SEO (for people that are using SEO) or something to do with ecommerce. These ones are more niche and suited to your job and what you’ll be doing.

                For me, I wanted to do content marketing. Essentially, blogging on behalf of businesses. You write articles and content tailored to a specific audience that are at a set point in the buying process, to increase brand exposure, engage an existing audience or reach a new one. Eg. if you’re a clothing company, you might post interviews with famous bloggers to gain their audience, or keep your current one entertained; if you were a skincare brand, writing posts about “How To Find Your Skincare Routine” or things like that is good because the people searching that are likely to be your target audience. So that was like my branch that I wanted to study.

                I had a bit of a lucky (or unlucky depending on how you look at it) experience; my employer literally knew nothing about content marketing. He basically wanted cheap marketing and thought the apprenticeship place would be training his apprentice (it doesn’t work that way, btw). So I went into the interview, already knowing about SEO and content marketing (through my old site, which was doing really well at that time) and he hired me straight away xD

                I was the only one in marketing; so I got to do everything (social, email marketing, our web content, infographics, etc.) and that was BRILLIANT experience. That said, if I hadn’t of had that blogging background and interest (I researched all these things myself to eventually use on my website, but got to try them out at work first) and experience, it would have been a total flop. The apprenticeship place don’t so much teach you as assess what you learn at work; so your employer is expected to be guiding you (makes sense) and then the units fit in with your work so you can be assessed while you work.

                This was super long, I’m really sorry xD xx

            3. Haha thanks for this detailed reply! 😀 I’m definitely going to look into internships now since I’m probably going to be studying only part time next year and something like this looks so interesting! Sounds like you had a great experience with it! Any specific sites you found yours through or was it just a random google search?:)

            4. I’m sure that this will be a really helpful post to many people! When I went to uni, my year were the last to be paying for £3k a year before it tripled in price, so I know a lot of people cannot afford to go to uni now because seriously, who wants to be in so much debt once they’re out of it?! Having said that, I would not exchange my uni experience but of course, this all depends on the person. Experience no matter what it is, is ALWAYS worth it.

              It’s great that you are getting paid somewhat. There are a lot of creative companies who have interns but do not pay them. The most they will do is cover travel expenses and lunch!

              1. Thank you so much lovely! And ugh you’re so lucky, I wish my fees were that bloody low!😭😭😭 to be honest I agree with you…. I think it’s worth it if it’s a good experience✨

                And definitely, I know internships are good experience, but i couldn’t work for someone else without getting paid 😭😭😭xx

            5. I did a two year apprenticeship rather than going to uni and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. They provide you with so much education with on the job learning which helps you develop further skills, fab post!

            6. Great post! That’s so cool that you could get an apprenticeship in Digital Marketing. I feel like ones around me would probably be more for manual labor, but my friend had a internship with an event planner or something… So I’ll research it!

            7. I just had to read this post. I’m graduating from college in May this year and I’m so looking forward to be done with school. So I got accepted into an apprenticeship program teaching in a high school in New York and I’m super excited but the $$$ is basically scrumbsssss literally nothing when you consider rent and bills.. ughhh but it’s a start considering I have no real experience teaching. like you said its a full time job with training wheels I just wished I was gonna be paid more.

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