FInancial Services Training Partners
Imagine if you were playing ‘word associations’ with friends and work colleagues and the round started with “apprenticeships”. On the one hand, you might hear people saying ‘manual, dull work, low- level, low-wages, low-skilled, dead-end, basic office administration or even slave-labour! But on the other hand, you might also hear more positive descriptions; ‘earning whilst learning’; a better and more useful alternative to A’ Levels and degrees; the ‘best of both worlds’ in terms of combining student life and studying. These polarised views are very much where Financial Services are with the use of apprenticeships.
Over the last fifty years, successive UK governments and employers have learnt the hard way that disadvantaged youth and disaffected employees with nothing to aim for or aspire to, will very often quickly become disillusioned, disenchanted and eventually disenfranchised and disconnected. Now in the post Covid working world this is even more true.
However, many employers (as their training providers will doubtless testify) have produced high-quality, rigorous and challenging apprenticeships aimed at staff of all ages and mostly, the 17-25 year old population. These apprenticeships are useful not only in terms of helping an individual make a smooth transition from school, or college, into the workplace, but also in potentially enabling that person to attain a degree-level work-based qualification.
It’s the same now with further / higher education and the decision of whether or not to go to university, versus either getting a vocational training or going straight into a job and working one’s way up. With the student debts ever-increasing, the decision not to go to university will be an absolute ‘no-brainer’ for some.
One source estimates average student debts of < £50,000 and although some of it may be “capped” (according to The Week, around 80% of student debt is written-off), students still face the daunting prospect of what to do next with their degree whilst figuring out how to pay off what’s owed and getting a solid footing on the first rung of the career ladder.
This is where apprenticeships really come into their own and may have the edge over conventional full-time tertiary education. Even with part-time jobs, a university degree costs tens of thousands of pounds, with no guarantee of future career success, despite some evidence that it will eventually boost the individual’s earning potential. An apprenticeship enables a person to earn as they learn and in fact prepares them far better, in some ways, for many of life’s curve-balls and stresses. Once enrolled, an apprentice quickly finds out how to juggle the priorities of working, studying and socialising with the demands of home-life and possibly other activities, such as being a carer. Therefore, parents, schools and colleges must ensure that apprenticeships are being promoted alongside more traditional academic routes.
Apprenticeships may never be a substitute for the “bubble” of student-life on campus, but they are shaking off a reputation of low-paid drudgery. And there are more higher-level apprenticeships coming on stream. But entrants beware and be ready. Whilst apprentices can be at any age and potentially available to anyone looking to return to work after a long leave of absence (e.g. returning mums, or career-breakists), competition for the best apprenticeships is as fierce as it is for the top university places.
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