Being an apprentice doesn't have to involve swanning oafishly around London before Lord Sugar yells at you. It's also nothing to do with being a trainee Jedi or tackling rogue broomsticks in that peculiar Disney cartoon. (At least not yet.) With National Apprenticeship Week coming up, we thought we'd take a look at what an apprenticeship really does involve – and what it can offer you.
1 - Earn while you learn
Apprentices work for an employer while studying for vocational qualifications. What really sets an apprenticeship apart, however, is that you get paid for doing it. As an apprentice you receive a regular salary and your study costs are paid for by your employer, so you earn and learn without shelling out lots of money on fees.
2 - Develop real, solid skills
Apprentices have been around for centuries in many trades, from blacksmithing to baking. A modern apprenticeship can still help you enter those professions, or it can lead to jobs in areas like IT, finance or retail. Wherever your interests lie, an apprenticeship can give you the skills to get the job done, whether that's baking bread or selling it. (Or shoeing horses.)
3 - Lots of choice
The range of apprenticeships available has certainly increased since the 12th century, when the first recorded apprentices went off to work. If you're looking into an apprenticeship now you'll have more than 250 subjects to choose from, some of them offered by small local businesses and others by household names, like Aldi. Whatever your ambition and wherever you are, there will be an apprenticeship out there to suit you.
4 - Learn from the best
Because an apprenticeship involves workplace learning you'll be picking up skills on the job from those who are already doing it. That means you could be instructed by some of the leading people in their industry - at Aldi, for example, logistics apprentices work with some of the organisation’s top talent to learn about the flow of goods between suppliers and customers.
5 - Gain some high level academic qualifications
An apprenticeship doesn't limit your options when it comes to getting qualified - higher apprenticeships are on a par with foundation degrees, for example. Some apprenticeships can even lead to an honours degree, so if it's academic qualifications you're after, an apprenticeship can help.
6 - Get an insight into the working world
If you're coming straight from school or haven't had a job before, the idea of going into a workplace can seem daunting at first. An apprenticeship is designed to help you navigate the world of work, giving you practical skills and knowledge but also guiding you through some of the social situations you'll encounter, whether that's how you talk to the boss (nicely) or how important tea is (very).
7 - Real career opportunities
Pick the right apprenticeship and work hard and you won't simply leave after a couple of years once you've qualified. Some employers, like Aldi, give their apprentices the opportunity to join them full-time when their training is complete. It's a win-win, as your employer knows your strengths, and you know the company you're going to work for.
8 - A chance to make it to the top
Starting as an apprentice can give you the skills you need to go places. You'll know the business, know the people, and have the academic knowledge to back it all up. It's no wonder that apprentices go on to senior roles – apprentices on Aldi's Store Apprenticeship programme can make it all the way to store manager level, for example.
9 - Be well treated
You may have noticed that some apprentices have a hard time of it – we're back to Lord Sugar and Mickey Mouse – but if you pick the right apprenticeship you can expect to be treated with respect, given responsibilities, and to be paid fairly. Not all apprenticeships pay the same amount, but many offer competitive salaries to reward your hard work.
10 - Feel part of a team
Finally, an apprenticeship can give you the chance to be a part of something, no matter what the industry. Employers offering apprenticeships, like Aldi, expect you to put the hours and effort in, and there will be challenges. But you'll make friends, learn, laugh, share experiences and come out with all the skills you need to build a career to be proud of.
Find out more about apprenticeships here and more about Aldi's apprenticeship programmes here.