Apprentice working in office

There’s an ongoing debate about whether or not a degree really is essential for a successful professional career, or whether apprenticeships can provide a viable alternative route. And the recent apprenticeship reforms have generated further discussion around the subject.

According to the Apprenticeships Statistics for England report by the House of Commons Library, in 2018/19, higher level apprenticeships (levels 4-7) accounted for 19% of all starts – an increase of 6% from 2017/18. These stats suggest that apprenticeships are now being considered more frequently as a credible education pathway.

However, the question still remains: can you really have a successful career without a degree? Is a university degree essential, or can the experience and qualifications gained through an apprenticeship serve as a suitable alternative?

At Seetec Outsource we believe apprenticeships provide many advantages and that they can lead to successful careers that offer plenty of development opportunities.

In this article we’ll highlight the key benefits of apprenticeships and explain how they can help individuals establish a professional career.

Range of Apprenticeship Standards

Once upon a time, the types of apprenticeships on offer were quite limited, and this has contributed to the stigma that often surrounds apprenticeships. However, since the move from frameworks to standards over the last few years, there is now a wide and growing range of apprenticeships available. New apprenticeship standards are being introduced all the time, covering business sectors from accounting to engineering, and they are not just limited to one level. The apprenticeship standards on offer today provide career progression opportunities at all levels – whether you’re at the start of your career or midway through – so there’s no need for you to worry about being stuck on the same level for years because you don’t have a university degree.

In-Demand Skills

The great thing about apprenticeship standards is that they are created by employers within a specific industry, which means the skills you’ll learn as an apprentice are necessary for the job. Additionally, for an apprenticeship standard to be approved, employers must be able to demonstrate demand in the labour market for that particular job role and prove that it will provide long-term earning and progression potential. This means you’ll learn skills that are in-demand in your chosen industry, which can increase your chances of career progression once your apprenticeship training comes to an end.

Avoid Uni Debt

One of the most obvious benefits of apprenticeships – and one of the reasons more people are opting for careers that don’t require a university degree – is the avoidance of unnecessary debt. University graduates finish their courses with approximately £30k tuition fee debt. And, while it doesn’t need to be paid back until graduates earn over a certain amount, once the payment threshold is met, a big chunk of a graduate’s yearly salary must be paid to the Student Loans Company. If you opt for an apprenticeship instead of a university degree, you’ll avoid the debt and get the chance to earn while you learn.

Real-Life Work Experience

Apprenticeships offer real-life experience in the workplace, which is something individuals who follow traditional education pathways, like university, don’t benefit from. Rather than learning skills in theory, apprentices can learn new skills on the job and apply them in a real work environment. This kind of experience is extremely valuable to apprentices when it comes to applying for new jobs, not only because new employers require a certain amount of experience, but also because you’ll be more confident in your skillset. With the knowledge you’ll gain through on-the-job training, you’ll have much more experience at the end of your apprenticeship than someone who has completed a three-year degree.

Earning Potential

While apprenticeships often get a bad rap for low initial pay, a report from Sutton Trust found that higher level apprenticeships (at level 5) result in greater lifetime earnings than undergraduate degrees from non-Russell Group universities. On top of this, after graduating, many university-goers have to undertake unpaid internships to get their foot in the door of their chosen industry. This is not something apprentices have to worry about.

Degree Level Qualifications

Apprenticeships come in a variety of levels – each one equivalent to an educational qualification. They begin at GCSE level (level 2) and go right through to master’s degree level (level 7). Upon completion of an apprenticeship, individuals will achieve a nationally recognised standard that sets them up for a career in their chosen sector. Plus, for apprentices that want to work towards a degree level qualification, the opportunity is there. Higher level apprenticeships (levels 4+) are equivalent to a foundation degree and above, and degree level apprenticeships are equivalent to bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In 2018/19, there were 75,100 higher level (4-7) apprenticeship starts, up from 48,200 in 2017/18, which highlights that apprenticeships at foundation degree level and above are becoming more popular.

Famous Faces of Apprenticeships

Many successful individuals began their careers through apprenticeships and have since risen to fame. Some of these include Jamie Oliver, who worked at several restaurants in London as an apprentice chef, George Clarke, who began his career in architecture through an apprenticeship, and Karen Millen, who started her career following a City & Guilds course in fashion. Without apprenticeships, these individuals wouldn’t have gained such valuable experience and set the foundations for a successful future.

Careers Without a Degree

Because of the direction apprenticeship standards are heading, there are now apprenticeships in almost every sector imaginable, from aerospace engineering to web development and everything in-between.

In 2018/2019, 83% of all apprenticeship starts were in the following four areas, which illustrates the variety of apprenticeships available: Business, Administration and Law; Health, Public Services and Care; Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies and Retail & Commercial Enterprise.

One of the reasons for the range of apprenticeship standards available is that an increasing number of employers are now tuning into the fact that apprentices can prove incredibly beneficial to their company. With apprenticeships, not only do employers get to train individuals to their company’s standards, they also gain dedicated, loyal members of staff that become invested in their organisation.

At Seetec Outsource, we are dedicated to helping individuals find their dream career, and providing employers with highly-skilled apprentices who meet the needs of their company. We cover a range of business sectors from aviation and logistics to IT, media and communications. We genuinely believe that individuals can have a successful career without a degree, and are committed to demonstrating this.

For more information about the apprenticeships we offer at Seetec Outsource, please feel free to get in touch with a member of our team.