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Student Blog

Apprenticeships Vs University

Not sure whether to throw yourself into the world of work, or study your socks off? We stack up the reasons for both, so you can make the call.Alan Sugar meme: "on paper you look good"
Newsflash: getting an apprenticeship or going to university isn’t an either/or choice. Going for one doesn’t mean you can’t bag the other later on – and it doesn’t mean you can’t get the best bits of what they each have to offer, whichever you plump for! Here’s how it pans out.

What’s an apprenticeship?

Simply put, it’s a work/training combo.

If you’re accepted onto an apprenticeship scheme, you start working for an employer, they give you time off for studying – and you get paid for both. Bosh.

Lots of folk assume apprenticeships are what you do when you don’t have study smarts: not true. Depending on which level you achieve, an apprenticeship can be equivalent to anything from a school-leaver qualification to a full degree. Not only that, an apprenticeship can be a way into top companies: BMW, IBM, and the BBC all have dedicated apprenticeship schemes, as do loads of companies with more than three-letter names.

8 reasons to go for an apprenticeship

Cheesy businessman with thumbs up

  1. You start earning straight away. While students are racking up a Loan, you’ll be getting paid for work, study and holiday leave.
  2. The Sutton Trust reckons the "best apprentices" (those who get the equivalent of a foundation degree) could earn £50k more over their lifetimes than undergrads from non-Russell Group universities.
  3. By the time students graduate you could have gained years of work experience and be well into your career. And, by the time you’re competing with graduates for jobs, you’ll have enough experience under your belt to hold your own.
  4. If you’re dead set on a particular industry, you’ll be prepped to deliver exactly what its employers are looking for (experience, training and skills), because you start accumulating them from day one.
  5. It’s not just for ‘learning a trade’. Accountancy, engineering, IT and journalism - and many others - are as open to apprenticeships as they are to degrees.
  6. You’ll still have a qualification at the end of the programme – you won’t lose out by opting to work.
  7. The qualification you get won’t have cost you anything if you're 16-18 (or will have been heavily subsidised if you're older and are asked to contribute anything).
  8. You can apply for an apprenticeship at any time of the year: no need to burn-out your sweat glands trying to meet application and funding windows.

What else do you need to know?

Lightbulb on lawnYou need to be 16-25 and have the right to live and work in the UK. Depending what you go for, competition for schemes can be as fierce as for university courses (bag the blagging skills if you need 'em).

While you start earning straight away, the minimum wage for apprentices is set slightly lower if you’re 16-18: £3.30/hour rather than the £3.87 you get if you find a job off your own bat.

How much time you spend working varies by region. In England, you need to do at least 30 hours a week on top of your training. And, because employers pay for your training as well as your wages, leaving or changing jobs isn’t as simple as handing in notice (check it out for yourself before you sign up).

Each part of the UK has it’s own rules and framework for apprenticeships. Here’s where to find out more, search for a scheme or start your application:

8 reasons to head for university

Student wearing a book on her head

  1. While you delay getting a full-time income, graduates can typically earn £12k/year more than those without the scroll. And, when you do start work, you’re more likely to walk in higher up the career ladder (and pay scale!).
  2. There are some careers you just can’t do without a degree. Rocket science, anyone? Plus, just having a degree can make you eligible for jobs in a variety of industries, not just in the subject you study.
  3. You learn how to manage your time, deal with people, juggle multiple projects, work in a team, be cost aware and budget savvy, liaise with stakeholders (that’d be your tutors) and get an -ology.
  4. You can still earn while you learn – sometimes without even having to leave your dorm room.
  5. While the hours can be gruelling, you get a lot more flexibility over your time and what you spend it on. That might sometimes include, ahem, low-grade daytime TV, but also work, hobbies, societies, travel and volunteering.
  6. How much you need to pay upfront (or pay back) is minimised for most folk. Plus there’s more funding out there than you can wiggle a stick at.
  7. You can catch-up at work after your studies with a graduate scheme (employment training reserved for degree holders!). If you’re under 25 when you leave uni you can still opt for an apprenticeship – although you’d need to discuss whether the employer will cough up for the training part.
  8. Student discounts: there’s nothing like ‘em – and they can save you a ton on everything study related and beyond. You don’t even have to pay council tax if you know how it works.

As with anything, there are pros and cons to either route. Whichever you pick, just make sure it suits you, your circumstances and your aspirations. Think it over. Take a look around the site to get a flavour of what uni’s really like (and how to make the most of it!) – and don’t discount that, either way, you can get all the perks of working and still be your own boss.

Got questions? We’ll help you get sorted in the comments section below. See you there!

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